by William Shakespeare.
Little Angel Theatre Little Angel Theatre 24 Dagmar Passage N1 2DN To 10 November 2013.
Tue-Sun 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7226 1787.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 October.
A high-flyer when it takes wing.
A puppet Macbeth has its points. Puppet heads can be lopped off without the sense of trickery inherent in decapitating human actors. And, by playing the characters as birds, from a scrawny king swan to flighty messengers (an early version of twitter), this production, for audiences aged 12+, lights on a strain of imagery in the play.
Director Peter Glanville is migrating south soon to run Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre, and he leaves the Little Angel with this claim on the central dramatic repertory. Visually, it is splendid, with David Duffy’s lighting poetically highlighting spaces and the variety of bird characters, while giving a sense of depth and distance to the various levels of Macbeth’s castle. And James Hesford’s atmosphere-invoking but never intrusive score enhances a sense of remoteness and shock in Glanville’s production.
But the central glory is the variety and detail of Lyndie Wright’s puppets. The royal family are the largest, but it’s Macbeth, picked out in resplendent gold, who draws the attention.
When these birds take wing they penetrate into Shakespeare’s play. There are striking images of carrion creatures gnawing the battlefield’s corpses, the Witches hovering, Duncan framed in the entrance to the Macbeth’s castle as the drawbridge creaks shut to trap him into his death-place; the shock as the drawbridge, much later, creaks open to reveal Lady Macbeth’s dead body.
Yet there’s a cost. The three black-garbed Puppeteers work with great skill. But they are often operating puppets that have nothing to do but stand, parade around or fill-in with stock actorish gestures while voices-over speak the lines in a tone, and at a rate, that often relates little to the puppets’ physicality. The impact’s strangely dislocated. And generalised – it’s hard to accuse an individual bird of being “fiend-like”.
This, unsurprisingly, affects Macbeth’s soliloquies where the creature we see might be a mute onlooker to Nathaniel Parker’s characterful speech. Rapid dialogue, like the short nervy lines around Duncan’s murder, also seem remote from the sight of puppets not made for rapid action micro-detail expressions.
So a production that sometimes takes flight can, too often, limp along.
Puppeteers: Claire Harvey, Lori Hopkins and Lowri James.
Soldier/Malcolm: Chris Nayak.
1st Witch: Lowri James.
2nd Witch: Lori Hopkins.
3rd Witch: Claire Harvey.
Ross: Brett Brown.
Duncan: Donald Sumpter.
Macbeth: Nathaniel Parker.
Banquo/Lennox: Steven Maddocks.
Lady Macbeth: Helen McCrory.
Macduff: Christopher Staines.
Donalbain: Peter Glanville.
Lady Macduff: Lynette Shanbury.
Director: Peter Glanville.
Designer: Peter O’Rourke.
Puppet Designer: Lyndie Wright.
Lighting: David Duffy.
Music: James Hesford.
Costume: Keith Frederick.