Wednesday, January 24, 2018

That Scottish Play! A novel and witty adaptation by Commedia of Errors (Lyric Theatre until 26 January + tour)

Commedia of Errors have returned once more to Shakespeare for inspiration for their latest production, That Scottish Play!

Never known to take themselves or their source material too seriously, Benjamin Gould's adaptation of the Bard's Macbeth retells the general gist of the original while revelling in highlighting the inconsistencies and absurd plot points along the way.

The cast of three - Rosie McClelland, Conor Hinds and Benjamin Gould - disguise themselves behind Commedia dell'Arte-style masks (whose grotesque noses are brilliant when viewed in profile) and take on board different accents, stances, heights, mannerisms and costume accessories to switch between Shakespeare's character-burdened original script.

Benjamin Gould twists his body into new shapes for each new part: his Duncan was particularly striking. There's a confidence to his interventions that mean the crowd play along with even the most absurd (and sustained) substitution when a dagger was unavailable at a key moment in the first half.

Conor Hinds' tall and foreboding Macbeth along with Rosie McClelland's controlling Lady Macbeth are among the few unmasked characters. The Ghost of Banquo makes an appearance, along with all your favourites from the tragic play.

A timely reference to Australian Flu and a couple of local political references aren't the only anachronisms added into the script, while Lady Macbeth even manages to throw some shade at Game of Thrones. Quite wonderfully, Fleance was small enough to literally 'fly' off stage.

The low level lighting casts interesting shadows up the full height of the black-curtained backdrop. However, at times characters' faces (and masks) are left unlit when they stand too close to the front of the stage and the beam of light stops at their shoulders.

Four elegant wooden trees - practically a forest given the latest round of arts cuts on top of all the previous reductions - and two stone chairs dress the simple set designed by Stuart Marshall. Stage manager Rory Casey deservedly took a quick bow at the end of this evening's performance to recognise the manic choreography of his set repositioning during each scene change that kept the energy level of the play up and the audience amused.

Playing to a full house in the Lyric this evening, That Scottish Play! delivered laugh out loud entertainment along with lots of novel insight into a well known play. The audience became co-conspirators with gleeful participation at key moments after the interval. It definitely helps to have a good understanding of the original Macbeth to get the most out of Gould's clever adaptation; however, it's not essential and much of the physical humour still works.

That Scottish Play! is at the Lyric Theatre until Friday 26 January before embarking on a tour through Enniskillen (Tuesday 30 January), Cushendall (Wednesday 31), Newtownabbey (Thursday 1 February), Strabane (Friday 2) and Coalisland (Saturday 3).

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