On paper, having the entire cast of Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy ‘Macbeth’ represented by puppet birds may sound a little weird. Let’s be thankful then, that the team at the Little Angel Theatre Company – including puppet designer and Little Angel founder Lyndie Wright – have such imagination. This fowl-filled production is as bewitching and dark a version as any that feature common-or-garden Homo sapiens.
So Macbeth is a cockerel, Lady Macbeth a chicken, King Duncan and his sons are swans and the three witches nasty carrion birds. As with many of the Angel’s shows, this has more than a touch of the fantastical about it. Several of the creatures stalk on two legs, their beaks haughty and hard, their wings fluttering non-stop. These are beautiful puppets, directed by a talented trio of puppeteers who bring poise, poetry and grace to the characters.
Peter Glanville’s production – his final for Little Angel before he steps down as artistic director – is impossibly haunting and dark. It’s helped no end by James Hesford’s strikingly atmospheric music which includes moments of folk, dramatic strings and heavy booming base and regularly evokes the inner turmoil of the birds.
The voices are all pre-recorded and played overhead, which is slightly jarring and drops the intensity somewhat. But the actors, who include Helen McCrory and Nathaniel Parker, are excellent, especially McCrory, who gives Lady Macbeth a heavy force and sexuality.
The script – cut to 90 minutes – is well adapted and of course the surprising number of bird references in the original are made rather a lot of (‘What, all my pretty chickens?’ shouts Macduff after his babes are killed).
The finale turns into a marvellous feather-strewn cock fight between Macduff and Macbeth and we’re left to look at poultry in a whole new light.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell