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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 theatre too.

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.


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