Tomorrow Creeps, VAULT Festival

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by Laura Kressly

I’m a big fan of Golem!’s approach to theatrical storytelling, and they’re a big fan of my review of their last production – so much so that their primary pull quote is one I wrote. It tops their programme, their press release and their festival listing. So it saddens me to say that Tomorrow Creeps pales in comparison to their I Know You of Old on which I lavish heaps of praise.

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Macbeth: without words, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Shakespeare without words. What’s left? In Ludens Ensemble’s Macbeth: without words, plenty. Drawing on the aesthetic of silent films and Victorian gothic with the near-constant use of live sound mixing, a trio of performers playing all roles conveys the story effectively through movement and subtitles. This spooky adaption taps into the heavy darkness and supernatural elements of the story in an easy to follow and visually compelling production.

The design is the most striking element of the show. Greyscale, sexless costumes are the base for elements of victoriana – waspies, a skeletal skirt, capes and papery crowns. Large screens and dust sheets host an array of productions, from silent movie captions to abstract splodges of colour. Haze is used liberally, but it actually feels appropriate to this production to create fog over the heath. The dust sheets are also cleverly used to create ghostly apparitions and shadows, though these could be used more often as a design motif. Two microphones and prerecorded sounds are mixed live to create rich soundscape of suspense and violence, though silence is used to highlight powerful moments of suspense.

The two men and one women are strong physical performers evidently influenced by theatrical clowning and animal work. Their focus and intensity are unwavering, especially as Macbeth’s torment grows. Expressed outwardly, this becomes the centre of the story.

Though there are a few extracts of text, stage directions and summaries projected, Macbeth: without words would be hard to follow without knowing the story already. A freesheet with a plot summary would go a long way to ensure all audience members are catered for. Some of the scenes could use lengthening to reflect their importance to the story, particularly the banquet scene.

This is a visually stunning adaptation of Shakespeare’s play that in no way underserves the original by stripping away the text. Ludens Ensemble create a vocabulary of movement, images and sound that feels just as rich as Shakespeare’s.

Macbeth: without words runs through 29th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.