“Methought I heard a voice cry, sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep!”
William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Macbeth
A Fireside Folktales Performance
“All hail Macbeth that shalt be King hereafter…”
With these portentous words, the three witches seal the fate of not only the Thane of Glamis himself but also all the others whom Macbeth will dispose of on the way to fulfilling their deadly prophecy.
Shadow Road brings you the condensed Fireside Folktales version of this widely-studied Shakespeare classic that retells the old story of the 11th Century Scottish King and examines the physical and psychological damage done by political ambition, both to those who seek power for its own sake and to those who get in their way…
Premiered in August 2020, this electrifying new adaptation of Shakespeare’s infamous tragedy promises to be the darkest entry yet in the Fireside Folktales collection. Featuring a certain amount of original material, it nevertheless remains true to its source, both in tone and content.
We can provide creative and educational workshops to accompany this production upon request.
Eerie and chilling interpretation of one of the Bard’s classics
A sparkling gem of a show with a really innovative take on the physical and mental damage that flows from misplaced political ambition.
Macbeth’s proclivity for violence to get what he willed is a major theme of Shakespeare’s often re-worked (and much studied) tragedy. It was therefore slightly alarming, waiting outside theSpace@Niddry Street’s spacious Upper Theatre, to hear the sounds of clashing metal, heavy breathing and a lot of shouting/grunting coming from within. Heaven only knows what was going on in there. It sounded dangerous. But interesting!
And so it proved in Shadow Road Productions’ genuinely “electrifying adaptation” (to quote the show’s own PR) of what many thesps will refer to only as “The Scottish Play” such is the theatrical superstition around uttering the piece’s true title.
Shadow Road is the brainchild of founder/artistic director Emma King-Farlow. It’s is a small theatre company which specialises in bringing works of theatre for all ages and occasions to unusual spaces in creative new ways. Perfect then for this, their Fringe debut where every available Edinburgh nook and cranny morphs into a performance space during three mad weeks each August.
King-Farlow’s skilfully edited and staged adaptation is perfectly pitched from witchy start to blood-letting finish with the cast of four woman each playing a central role, flipping to a range of vignettes as the plot demanded. They stick to the original text most of the time but judicious insertion of new modern language material bookends the piece as well as providing occasional and helpful plot signposts as the action unfolds.
The plot? Well, think political ambition in overdrive and the physical and psychological damage resulting therefrom to those who seek power and to those who are subjected to it. Just look around you if you want modern day examples.
Performed in the round, the quartet use every square inch of a blank stage with exits/entrances at each corner and work hard to ensure the audience feels involved and engaged. Mind you, with the passion, tension and range of other emotions on display, no one’s attention is going to drift far for fear of missing something from what’s a universally strong cast.
Amy Floyd (Macbeth) has a formidable, almost frightening stage presence, inhabiting Macbeth with gravitas and political cunning that makes Machiavelli look like a pussy cat. Victoria Adler (First Witch, Macduff and a very engaging Doctor) differentiates her main and subsidiary characters with great skill, subtle changes in posture and voice ensuring you know just who she is playing at what point.
Emma King-Farlow (Second Witch, Lady Macbeth) is colder than a deep freeze, another one who could out-Machiavelli Machiavelli in a trice. Brilliantly understated in this guise (she delivered the coldest “out damn spot” speech I’ve ever heard) she flipped seamlessly between this, her role as a deranged witch and a couple of other characters in a heartbeat. Completing the cast was the very adaptable Sarah Robinson who was bumped off with surprising regularity when she wasn’t up to mischief as Third Witch or effecting most of the (simple) set changes.
There’s so much about this piece to both admire and enjoy and it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into its staging. The witches feline movement, the swirling of their cloaks creating the impression of mist drifting across a desolate Scottish landscape. The use of geometry to keep audience sightlines clear – triangles, diamonds, squares of performers skilfully maintained as they moved around the stage. Costumes were simple, yet expressive. Sound effects were vocalised or played on simple instruments by the cast.
Then there’s the tricky challenge of dealing with so many murders, particularly that of the extended Macduff clan, not to mention those of Duncan, Banquo, a few guards and other hangers on. With only four in the cast it would have been all too easy to run out of actors, so most of the deaths occur offstage with a mix of blood curdling cries and deathly silences. Very effective.
But they saved the best until last – the denouement between Macduff and Macbeth. The stage tension between Floyd and Adler was electric as they circled each other like a pair of prize fighters preparing to go the distance. Verbally it was superb, words being spat with a vehement intensity that raised hairs on the back of the neck. Physically, it was breathtaking, sword fighting that felt real, blood that looked it. Peerless. And the all work of Floyd who, it appears, has been a practising martial artist from a very young age and is now a specialist fight choreographer. Not someone to mess with, then.
This is a real sparkling gem of a show but one that’s feels like it’s hidden in plain sight even though it’s hosted by one of the Fringe’s more central and comfortable venues (full disclosure, I’ve staged many shows in it) with a 10.15am start. Too early for you? Come on, people! This show would be worth getting up at any hour to go see. They’re only running until 12 August but I’ll be making tracks for a repeat run. Yes, it was that good. Set your alarm clock and get down there.
Off to a great start with Macbeth: Sleep No More at @theSpaceUK. At heart a fairly conventional Macbeth, but to me it feels somehow modernised. The pace, the metre, the characterisation, all just slightly different from the (many, many) versions I’ve seen before.
Everything’s interesting and shines a new light on the text. Among a strong set of performances Lady Macbeth (Emma King-Farlow) is particularly electrifying, and the couple’s immediate grief for what they’ve destroyed really shines through.
With the all-female cast containing just four actors, they find smart solutions to the logistical challenges, while the staging is bold and sparse. The climactic fight scene is thrilling! 10:15am at Niddry St, only till Sat – stand not upon the order of your going but go at once.
A fast flowing reworking, this is certainly a version well worth seeing and an interesting addition to the Macbeth canon.
A cleverly shortened and in places rewritten version of the Scottish Play which takes nothing away from its power and fascination, performed very nicely by a four female cast, in what is normally a male heavy production.
All four actresses do very well to play a screed of different characters, but none shines brighter than Victoria Adler, who is scintillating in whichever body she is inhabiting. Adler’s sword fighting scene with Amy Floyd’s Macbeth is one of the highlights of the whole show, with audience members visibly shrinking back and pulling up legs from the thrusting and whirling bodies as the contest progresses to its inevitable bloody climax.
Absolutely riveting stuff!
You might like to know…
- The play runs for around 105 minutes.
- It can be staged either in the open air or indoors. If indoors, it can be performed either in promenade (with the audience following the action from space to space) or end on, with the audience seated.
- The play includes sword fighting and staged violence.
- Macbeth would be an obvious choice for school groups, many of whom are studying the play as part of the curriculum. It would also be a particularly good choice for Shakespeare-lovers, as an introduction to someone new to Shakespeare, or for anyone looking for some original Halloween entertainment!