Monday, July 28, 2014

Murder Most Foul, Criminals, and other capers

Not one of Shakespeare's frolicking fantasies but a gory history set mostly in granite castles, I thought Macbeth would be hard to stage effectively in the ECOS grassy amphitheatre space of Frome's Merlin Theatre, and Illyria had a balmy evening and the after-glow of the Children's Festival to contend with too. It's huge credit to the five actors that as well as clearly conveying a complex storyline that involves 20 characters, they also evoked the poignancy of this tragedy of a good man corrupted by ambition. William Finkenrath as Macbeth and Theresa Brockway, marvellous as his lady, were compelling in their passionate scenes together, egging each other on to reckless atrocities.
It was a good move to play the weird sisters for comedy ~ especially in act 2, when they appear as a kind of crusty trio from a minor music festival ~ and Matthew Rothwell's drunken porter made the most of his audience-interactive moments. But the highlight of the show has to be the fantastic swordfight when Macduff (Beau Jeavons White) ends Macbeth's murderous meteoric rise to power. 
Director Oliver Gray has a reputation for meticulous adaptations and (though for me he could have cut the long speech in the final act where Malcolm is being a bit of a prat) the energy & clarity of story-telling is remarkable in this fast-paced version.
And as dreadful histories were unfolding at the Merlin, downtown the Frome Children's Festival was drawing to a triumphant close with PeeWee Ellis and Huey Morgan funking it up at the Cheese&Grain to a family audience which may not remember the Fun Lovin' Criminals but knew how to dance.
A fit ending to a fantastic event offering fascinating activities under mini-marquees in the market yard and Welshmill playground, and along the woodland river path between. The focus was on curiosity and creativity, with drama workshops & dressing up, circus skills, young bands, canoeing & pump track action, for ages from tots to teens all thronged with enthusiastic takers. I especially enjoyed making leaf prints in Shared Earth Forest School with Frome's eco-enterprising Mayor resplendent in crisp-packet chain. Congratulations Rachel Griffin & all the organisers, brilliant day.

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