Secondary schoolteachers all over the country will relate to how tricky it can be to convince adolescents that the Bard lives up to his hype, so just imagine turning an even younger audience onto the antiquated language used in Shakespeare’s prose. With Brave Macbeth, Captivate Theatre have successfully made one of his bloodiest and most morally complex works accessible for all in attendance, no matter if their shoe size still outranks their age.
They pull off the feat through a streamlining of the plot’s knottier tangles, caricaturisation of its characterisation, a string of catchy songs to break up the constant back-stabbing, and bag-loads of energy from its eight-strong cast. Some riffs work better than others; the retooling of Banquo as a prancing English fop is a little unconvincing, Fleance’s squabble with King Duncan is unnecessarily inane and Lady Macbeth’s suicide is ineffectively glossed over. But these are minor complaints.
For the most part, the team behind the show strike just the right balance between farce and faithfulness to the plot, injecting a healthy dose of daft when needed most. The unintelligible murderer and the involvement of younger members of the crowd in battle scenes are particular highlights, dispensing with blood and gore in favour of slapstick and silliness. A handful of contemporary references and fourth-wall gags add some slightly higher-pitched comedy, that sails over the heads of the wee ones but keeps their adult chaperones chuckling as well.
Add in charismatic (though often preposterous) performances from all its cast – especially leads Liam Forrester as Macbeth and Georgia Lee Roberts as his wife – and a tight turnaround in terms of stage direction and prop use, and you’ve got a well-oiled machine of a show. It dumbs down Shakespeare enough for a younger audience to enjoy it, but not so much that it becomes a chore for older members. As such, it’s easy to see why Brave Macbeth has previously scooped a Primary Times Children’s Choice Award; for those unfamiliar with the Bard or with this irreverent, accessible adaptation of his work, it’s well worth stopping by to see what the fuss is about.