Friday, May 21, 2010

Sound and Fury

Every year, Brighton does its Festival, complete with Edinburgh-emulating Fringe, and every year I think about being all cultural and going along, because it would be silly not to take advantage of such an event. Yet I never do.

It's not well-known, but I'm a bit of a Shakespeare fan. I don't go on about it; you won't see me quoting his plays (except up there, obviously), and you won't get me slipping apostrophes into words which are doing quite well enough without them. I do appreciate a good bit of Bardology though, and my favourite one of all is Macbeth (Hot potato! Off his drawers! Puck will make amends!); it turns out that there are two different versions of the Scottish Play on at the Festival.

One looks like this:

And the other looks like this:

Guess which one I chose?

The Pantaloons performed their version out in the park, in the bright, warm sunshine, and I was worried that the setting would completely ruin the mood of the play, which to me is all blasted heaths and rain and mud and various other grim and gritty sundries (yes, I thought this even based on the bright colours and facepaint you see in the image above), but it all turned out well. The performances were strong, and it really is a very good play, so I was soon sucked in and could ignore the lovely summer's day. I even managed to ignore the stoned heckler.

The Pantaloons did the entire play with only five actors, making use of minor costume changes to distinguish characters ("Banquo wears glasses, Macduff wears a hat"), and a small number of props to create settings. It was modernised to a degree, with Banquo's (SPOILER) murder taking place on a train, and everyone wielding revolvers while clad in Philip Marlowe style hats and coats, but the language was kept close to the text. The only exception to this was the Porter, recast as a curlers-and-rolling-pin "Aunt Fanny", who spoke directly to the audience in a pantomime fashion, and in more modern speech; this worked quite well, and since the original character serves as a bit of light relief anyway, the shift in tone was not jarring.

Best of all was that the show was completely free and open to all. The Pantaloons' mission statement is to bring plays like Macbeth to a wider audience, and to do that, they do not charge entry. They're also not funded through any source, so I don't know how long they can keep going, but I hope they do. There's a list of upcoming dates at their site.

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