SHAKESPEARE IN THE GARDEN – BRAVE MACBETH – Edinburgh Fringe

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✭✭✭✭✩     Childish Brilliance

Young critics scheme review
The Famous Spiegeltent (Venue 87): Fri 7 – Mon 31 Aug 2015

Funny, fast and exciting, Shakespeare in the Garden: Brave Macbeth is an excellent example of children’s educational theatre done right.

Full of references to the original text and other Shakespeare plays, this simple adaptation of Macbeth is great fun for all the family. All the songs by musical director Tommie Travers and director Sarah Lyall are relevant and have a very reassuring children’s TV programme feel to them.


Macbeth (Malcolm Cumming) is portrayed as a stereotypical, cocky hero – full of himself in every way. Cumming does well at showing the dual-personality of Macbeth, in this production a strong, hot-headed warrior and a snivelling, stroppy child. His solo at the end of the play is one of the highlights of the show where he displays his versatility.

The Witches (Meg Laird-Drummond, Stacey Mitchell and Ellen McBride) are appropriate for children as they aren’t too creepy and their song and its lyrics are reassuringly stereotypical. Max Reid as Malcolm is adorable playing a young boy with his bear – Reid and Laird-Drummond’s voices stand out during songs featuring the whole cast.

Lyall’s choice of a sheet and board for various scenes is very effective. They are used by the witches to show their prophecies to Macbeth and as a table for the Banquo ghost scene. Most ingeniously they create a stage for puppets that represent MacDuff’s children and while playing they reference lines and scenes from the other Shakespeare in the Garden productions.

modern references

The production tries to make death funny so as not to upset children. Despite infantilizing Shakespeare, the catchy songs, modern references and even the classic Monty Python coconut horse gag make it enjoyable for adults. The pace is kept fast by humorously cutting out Macbeth’s soliloquys and omitting blackouts.

As Lady Macbeth, Sylvia Cowie does well at being persuasive and goading the men – causing them to run away crying like children – but she lacks power and hides behind good lines. Ali Robertson as MacDuff gives the most emotional performance and creates a deep and entertaining character.

Old-fashioned with modern references, the production is slick and entertaining. Most importantly it engages the audience well teaching young children about Shakespeare in an enjoyable show suitable for anyone over the age of four.

Running time: 1 hour
The Famous Spiegeltent (Venue 87), St Andrew Square, EH2 1AF
Fri 7 – Mon 31 Aug 2015
Performances: 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, 29, 31 August
The three Shakespeare in the Gardens shows play two a day, daily (not Mons 10, 17 & 24) at 10.30am and 11.45am.
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/shakespeare-in-the-garden-brave-macbeth
Or the ARfringe website:http://www.arfringe.com/show/1817/shakespeare_in_the_garden_brave_macbeth
Company website: http://www.captivatetheatre.com/

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Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.

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