Macbeth

1 out of 5 stars

To push into unfamiliar territory is the responsibility of any artist. But as Spinal Tap’s ‘Jazz Odyssey’ taught us, blindly playing against all your strengths can sometimes be as bad an idea as it sounds.

York-based Belt Up have become Edinburgh Fringe royalty over the last couple of years; their madcap, irreverent circus-and mime-informed reinterpretations of famous texts have won them a devoted crowd.

The key mistake made by Alexander Wright’s site-specific take on The Scottish Play is to assume that an audience won’t mind standing on its feet for an hour and a half, trotting through a series of atmospheric but maddeningly sightline-blocking vaults, while watching (or trying to watch) an abridged but totally straight ‘Macbeth’ performed by actors whose skills lie everywhere but in straight acting.

The device of using an all-male cast of four is also infuriating. James Wilkes’s Lady Macbeth is actually pretty well defined, but there is no earthly reason why somebody unfamiliar with the play would have a clue what’s going on when the same actor switches from being Banquo to Malcolm without so much as a change in accent.

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