Broads With Swords:
Lady MacBeth Rewrites the Rule Book
The Dukes, Lancaster Wednesday 28 May 2003
reviewed by satori
It's the perfect recipe - computers and dangerous women. Not just one,
but lots, choreographed into scenes of impressively dangerous pulchritude
- yes, we noticed your busted lip, Cleopatra (Lisa Kreisky).
Score 110% for effort.
So, to begin with it took me a while to get on board - I didn't see
the little screens at the corners of the stage at first - then I had
to crane around to see what was on them. (It's a bit clueless if you
can't link to a decent overhead moniter / projection screen in a play
that actually trades on IT. Practically every pub and disco can manage
it nowadays.) I hadn't had time to read the extensive intro story in
the programme so missed a few of the gags, like why Scamvix (Suzanne
McAthy) kept busting into song. I figured that was just a bit of
Old European eccentricity. Whereas I now realise that part of her evil
plan for universal dominance involved getting to No 1 in the singles
charts. If she's actually going to come across in her true nastiness,
I think we should be told this stuff. Maybe a cut down version of the
intro on a nice big screen would help?
The deliciously fresh and feisty Tara Loft (played American - ish by
Amanda Hennessy - all ready for the Big Apple - eh?) fights off
regenerating Amazonian androids and the evil Scamvix in her quest for
control of the Jewel of Life. She mainly does this with a sword, in
really excellent clubbing / combat gear, a popular taste genre shared
by the rest of the Jewel of Life characters (tho as a vegan I'd drop
the leather accessories myself). The software on which this game is
played gets mixed up with a disc for the The Complete Works of William
Shakespeare. His heroines begin to emerge in the game terrain. All intent
on committing suicide. Immediately. And in character. This is a hysterically
funny scene, and I for one had never pieced it together just how many
Shakespearean heroines had come to a very sticky end.
I want to tell more of the story, but that would be wickedly self indulgent.
So I'll just get on with my value judgements. The fight scenes had been
hyped to the max beforehand, and were complex and interesting and also
quite visually engaging - not quite up there with the Crouching Tiger
Crew, but give them time - great use of the space and very creative.
But there wasn't a whole lot of power behind the thumping - maybe another
nano-second or two could be spent in the moment of both sides feeling
the connection - rather than remembering what the next move was supposed
to be. But hell, it's an early art, and they're all young.
More troublesome is the comprehension problem. I've an English 'A'
A level and much travel has given me good ears for language, but I often
had trouble making out what people were saying and missed whole rafts
of dialogue and plot development, as did my companion. There's a lot
of Shakespearean language that takes a moment to filter through and
it never got the chance. Don't gabble your words sisters, especially
Lady MacBeth (the commanding Lucy Tuck). The Yanks won't stand a chance.
Seriously. Its a bit of a high speed shout all the way through. A change
of pace here and there could work wonders. In contrast Lady MacBeth's
death scene has to be the obvious (and only) exemplar. You could have
heard a pin drop. The absolute focus and still centredness was something
the audience was really ready for after all that milling about.
Shakespearean acting is a whole piece of work on its own, without the
big combat stuff too. They certainly didn't aim low, this lot, when
they set up this project and I'm delighted. It's worth bearing in mind
tho' that part of the skill in modern Shakesperean acting is that the
prose is so dense that you have to articulate it at the speed that people
can actually process it, and with clear expression that contributes
to this process. There's time - the scene where they all argue over
whether to live or die is a bit comprehensive anyway (written by a committee,
mayhap?), especially when you can't make out a lot of it.
Elizabeth Keates deserves a special mention - her comic timing
is top, and when she tried to drown herself in a bucket she brought
the house down. She and Alice Healy and Alyx Tole made
the three witches almost one organism - where they walk all in rhythm
tucked together like one demonic entity is an excellent piece of physical
Conclusion: I had a lot of fun, so did the rest of the audience
and they all left feeling they'd got their money's worth and seen something
very fresh, funny, new and unique. It's not going to stop here though,
is it? Watch out for this lot.