Table Top Shakespeare - Macbeth

Compulsive storytelling here from Forced Entertainment who use everyday objects to help them tell Shakespeare's plays in an innovative and riveting way.

Sunday 6 March 2016

Shakespeare - Shows

Table Top Shakespeare Macbeth from Forced Entertainment

Image: Forced Entertainment

Forced Entertainment have been presenting their Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare at the Barbican over the last few days - in fact, today sees their very last performance in this current season, and by the end of the day, the company will have got through 36 plays.

I just managed to find time to squeeze-in their 12 noon show today - Macbeth.

Now, before we go any further, a word or two of explanation is required (even, if you've managed to work out the format from the image above).

This isn't an 'ordinary' performance of Macbeth - if, indeed, there even is anything akin to an 'ordinary' performance of this play.

Forced Entertainment's format for all their plays in this series, is the same.

An actor sits behind a table (hence the 'Table Top' part of the title) and relates the story of the play to the audience.

To provide visuals, the narrator uses everyday objects as stand-ins for the characters.

In Macbeth there's a distinctly DIY flavour to the selection of objects used.

Macbeth is a half-empty bottle of linseed oil and Lady Macbeth is represented by an old jam jar that is covered in grey paint having been used, one presumes, for mixing paint.

The witches turn-out to be balls of string, and the remaining characters are tins of oil, small paint pots, bottles of glue, cans of spray paint, and the like, and one character is an old kitchen tap.

The child-characters, obviously, have smaller items allocated to them - though related to their parents' objects.

If you're one for orthodoxy and tradition, this might all might seem like a bridge too far.

But actually, it turns out to be compulsive storytelling at its best.

For younger people, and even adults who wrestle with Shakespeare's language, the conversion of Shakespeare's own words into a modern-day narrative enables us to focus on the characters and the twists and turns of the story.

This distillation is not a watered-down version, but a clarified one, making the story vividly real and deeply meaningful, allowing everyone to understand what is happening in the story and why.

And there's plenty of room here for emotion emanating both from the actor's captivating performance, as well as from the tragedy of the story we're engaged with.

Of course, we laugh when some of the objects appear - the balls of string for the witches, the glue for Banquo and the sample-size version for his son - but we don't laugh when people - including children - are killed nor when Mrs Macbeth goes mad. None of the pathos is left-out in this reimagining of Shakespeare's ever-popular tragedy.

In an age where people complain endlessly about audience's distracting their neighbours with use of their phones during performances, or noisily unwrapping sweets, here you could have heard a pin drop, or even the faint rumble of a wayward stomach deprived of its breakfast.

Hugely watchable and inventive, do try to see any of the plays if Forced Entertainment are ever around your way in the future - the format comes highly recommended.

Peter Brown

And just to help make it all crystal clear ... here's a sample of how the shows work.


Forced Entertainment

Wikipedia - Macbeth

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