Ah the Scottish Play! Chances are you have seen it or studied it to death during school (ahem!) but let me promise you right now that you have NOT seen anything like the Little Angel Theatre interpretation. Ever.
So for those who don’t know, the Little Angel Theatre is a quaint little venue snuggled away between Angel and Islington. The theatre exclusively presents puppetry and live animation, which is a breath of fresh air in a city that is up to its eyeballs in musicals and straight plays. Macbeth is one of the Little Angel’s rare forays into puppetry for adults, a venture which is both undeniabley creepy and fantastic!
The best thing about this version of Macbeth is the interpretation itself. Director, Peter Glanville, and his Company of Angels have drawn out some of the birdlike imagery in the text (surprisingly there is an abundance), heightened it and made it grotesque. The Kingdom of Fife has become a sick menagerie, with the fowl fowls plotting to move up the pecking order to obtain the throne. Ingenious!
Macbeth and his fellow feathered courtiers are brought to life by three adept puppeteers, Claire Harvey, Lori Hopkins and Lowri James, whilst they are voiced by an array of theatrical royalty, include Nathaniel Parker (RSC, The Audience) as Macbeth, Helen McCrory (Harry Potter, The Queen, Skyfall) and Donald Sumpter (Game of Thrones, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.) It is hard to tell whether the puppeteers have influenced the vocals or vice versa, which I suppose makes their unification seamless. The only qualm I had with the combination was, with such a text heavy piece, I would love to have seen movement in the beak area.
Helen McCrory’s vocals were simply stand out as Lady Macbeth; she was breathless, whispery and harsh when necessary and had an excellent command of the glottal stop. Whilst I strongly feel she could voice the character in a radio play of her own, her sound worked perfectly with the eerie hawk like puppet dressed in white. I have never ever seen a better interpretation of the crazy queen.
Whilst one might think that the use of puppetry may detach the audience from the macabre goings on in the murderous Macbeth’s rise to power, it actually serves to exacerbate the gruesome imagery. For instance birds hanging by their neck, or crumpled up and dead were horrifying to watch! Moreover, whilst in Shakespeare’s original text, Macbeth is slain off stage, in this production the demise of the unlawful king was presented in the form of a grisly “cock fight” in which Macduff pecks Macbeth to death!
All in all it was a pure delight to see a production so richly performed handled in a unimaginably different context. It was horrifying in a way that no human lead performance could be. I would urge all fans of puppetry to come and learn from the masters here at Little Angel Theatre and I would urge all Shakespeare fans and theatregoers alike to see the show for its ingenuity.
Macbeth runs at the Little Angel Theatre until the 10th November 2013.