Macbeth Curse World Premier for Trowbridge
Play celebrating the 400 anniversary of Shakespear's death is a hit with local children
The Macbeth Curse was written by Terry Deary, famed author of over 280 books including the gory but rollicking Horrible Histories series. Written for and performed by the Prime Theatre company with a cast so streamlined you could fit it in a match box, the play was authored to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. After touring schools for a week, the play premièred to an audience of all ages on Sunday the 5th of March. Performed in the Victorian Trowbridge Town Hall, which itself opened in 1889, the transformation of the audience into bona fide time travellers was complete.
Welcome to the year 1902, where the Sixty Minute Shakespeare Ensemble are rehearsing their performance of Macbeth. With missing props and actors, and the mischievous presence of a phantom they begin to suspect the worst – that they have been struck by the infamous Macbeth curse. Despite these occurrences, nothing will deter the gallant Sir Alphonse from giving the audience a show to remember. After all, he can't possibly give the audience their money back. But as they valiantly push on through the performance, things only get more wacky.
In true Horrible Histories style, Deary's script makes education a fun and exhilarating experience. Joyfully romping their way through bloody and macabre stories of death, despair and the history of the curse, the Prime theatre company bring the script to life in a way that makes Shakespeare accessible to people of any age. Complex Shakespearian language, and key scenes from Macbeth are explained and affectionately mocked throughout. The compact cast is part of the plays charm. Chris Tolman's performance as the Victorian diva Sir Alphonse King is flamboyant and hilariously madcap. Kirsty Cox shines as the suffragette Margaret Jones, moving from one role in Macbeth to another with ease. The shy but resolute stage manager Miss Jessica Peacock is played superbly by Kate Spencer, and Robin Hemmings keeps the audience laughing from the minute they enter the room as the zany prankster Harry Pond.
Even the special effects in the play stay true to the spirit of the Victorian age. Incorporated within the play is a blend of kooky special effects and theatrical techniques such as music hall song, silent film and even puppets. Perhaps most impressive is the use of Peppers ghost. Despite the use of a blue room and mirrors being explained to the audience, there still seems to be something magical about the cupboard it's contained in. Above all, if the trick is all it seems, and the entire cast is demonstrably on the stage – why does the ghost keep popping up and putting the frighteners on everyone present?
After the show I had a chance to talk to Robin Hemmings about the plays opening week. We spoke about the different receptions to the play when performed to different age groups. 'When you're performing in schools' he explained, 'children are more relaxed and confident as they're in their own environment. Adults tend to be more guarded but it's a different experience – you get laughs in different places'.
With The Macbeth Curse, Terry Deary shines once again when it comes to making education an enjoyable experience. Jovially poking fun at the bard from start to finish, the play is sure to be well received throughout the rest of the tour. The Macbeth Curse will be performing in schools, with performances open to the public on the 21st and 22nd of March in the Swindon Arts Centre before touring to the Octagon Theatre in Bolton. The final performance of the play with fall upon the 23rd April.
Review by Adele Matterface