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Shakespeare For Kidz: Macbeth (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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I wish I had been able to see the Shakespeare 4 Kidz version of Macbeth when I was at Primary School because, as a production, the plot is explained clearly, and it is aided by the use of modern language, music and dance.

The children on the afternoon I attended love it when three evil crones sing Matt Gimblett’s “Weird Sisters."  Samantha Giffard, Kirsty Tibbetts and Richard Foster-King (yes, a bloke!) are suitably ugly and sinister in their roles. Add to their number, Hecate, Queen of Witchcraft (Noel Andrew Harron - another bloke!) and you have a creepy quartet.

Jason Lee Scott’s interpretation of Macbeth is just as impelling as Shakespeare’s original and he has a voice to die for which many characters do! Emma Odell as his wife conveys a scheming, unprincipled woman. I like the way she sings “Out damned spot” and other solos. Kirk Barker is an honourable Macduff.

Motivated by ambition, and encouraged by his wife, Macbeth kills Duncan, the King and eventually becomes a mass murderer. The most ghastly event is the killing of Macduff’s wife and children at his bidding. This is hardly “once upon a time” stuff and could possibly upset sensitive children.

So, in his role of co-director, Julian Chenery (sharing duties with Joseph Fowler) who also writes the script and lyrics makes Shakespeare’s porter provide comic relief. Noel Andrew Harron interacts, pantomime fashion with the kids who laugh their heads off at his antics.

At the end Macduff avenges Macbeth in a magnificent clash of swords followed by the final choral number “From Today” I chose to attend the matinee performance to see its impact on ten and ll-year-olds.

Among the school parties was a group from Firwood Manor Preparatory School in Chadderton, near Oldham.

I asked 10-year-old Arron, a pupil, what he thought of the show.  He said:  “I liked the witches the best but I was scared of the thunder. I liked the jokes.”

The porter goes to a lot of trouble to teach the children what ‘equivocator’ means. So I can’t understand why the company dumb down their name, reducing it to text speak by spelling Kidz incorrectly. Why isn’t it called, “Shakespeare for Kids?"  After all, the company aims to educate. Even so, their Macbeth is incredibly entertaining and original.

- Julia Taylor


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