Fire Burn: The Tragedy of Macbeth, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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It must be rather dull hanging out on a Scottish Heath with your sisters, waiting for some poor soul to come along to manipulate to the point of ruin. Fire Burn: The Tragedy of Macbeth tries to show the three witches re-enacting the tragedy they catalysed, or perhaps they act it out for the first time and the story Shakespeare depicts is all in their imagination. In either case, the concept of their playacting isn’t clear through their intentions or performance styles.

The three women who play all of the parts are good enough performers, differentiating characters well and endowing the text with energy and purpose. The Macbeth is occasionally a touch flat, but the young trio otherwise make good sense of the story. The witches’ spidery, angular movement and distorted voices contrasts the naturalism of the rest of the characters, and the application and removal of face paint also indicates character changes. This good choice plays up the ritual of the ancient story and adds a dressing-up element to the witches acting out the story.

If the witches are indeed portraying the characters, it is doubtful they would have the interest or ability to employ a contemporary conventional performance style. There is no hint of the witches’ personality or character when taking on the others, and there are no off-text moments to remind the audience that this is the concept. There should be a ruthless brutality and also a sense of play coming through to some extent, either in outbursts or as an undertone to the other roles.

Though not a bad production per se, the intended concept doesn’t read at all. As the show gets underway, there is little to indicate that this is anything more than a three-person version of the play. A three-person Macbeth, whilst a fine incarnation, is less inventive and insightful than the witches’ views on the people’s lives that they toy with.

Fire Burn: The Tragedy of Macbeth runs through 27th August.

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