Note: This review is from the 2016 Fringe

This bold new adaptation of the Shakespearean classic transplants the action from 11th century Scotland to a modern-day young offender’s institute, and in doing so makes the play accessible in a completely novel way. The bard’s storytelling abilities are obviously second to none, but the archaic language used in Shakespeare can sometimes make his work difficult and cumbersome to wade through. Though this play sticks to the original script, it manages to render it more comprehensible to an untuned ear and open it up to a new generation.

With only three members in the cast playing a whole host of different roles, the costumes are important differentiators and the acting has to be on point. For the most part, it is, with Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy and the appearance of Banquo’s ghost at the feast handled particularly well. The fight scenes are also choreographed effectively (especially the introductory sequence) and convey a sense of panic, urgency and raw power that can be rare to find on stage. Some shakiness does creep into the performance, particularly when attempting to convey sexual tension, but for the most part the actors shine.

While the trio’s ambition in trying to shift the story into a new and modern setting should be lauded, the transition isn’t quite as smooth as could be hoped. Certain knots in the plot (such as the witches’ prophecy about Birnam Wood relocating to Dunsinane) are untangled deftly, but the overarching relevance of the young offender’s institute to the storyline is unclear. What is the status of the King of Scotland inside such a place, and why is the position so coveted? One imagines it must be the head of a prison gang; but the device is clumsy and the audience is left to fill in one too many blanks on their own.

Having said that, the play is a worthy adaptation of the Scottish classic and breathes a new life into the work. Its originality and energy should satisfy existing fans of Shakespeare and perhaps even win a few doubters over to the bard’s side, as well.