Is This a Dagger?

Aug 7 2022 | By More

★★★★★   Spirited

Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30): Thurs 4 – Sun 21 & 27/28 Aug 2022
Review by Gwen M. Dolan

In Is This a Dagger?, Andy Cannon retells an epic, thousand year-old tale of bloody tragedy, deceit and power, bringing Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the stage while interlacing fact with fiction, past with present.

Collaborating with Red Bridge Arts, the production was created in 2007. Quoting original text from Shakespeare’s play, Cannon weaves truth with fantasy to dramatize the story in a completely original approach, appealing to an audience of all ages.

Andy Cannon in Is This A Dagger. Pic: Sandy Butler

For those not familiar with the tale of Macbeth, this production follows the uprising of the tyrannical, Scottish Monarch to his merited demise. Kings, friends, family, witches and Thanes (the title of a feudal lord in Medieval Scotland) all make an appearance in this one man performance.

The show begins with a lone stool on stage and the sound of an eerie, howling wind. Cannon enters from the back of the theatre with the rest of his props in a bucket, sporting a kilt. His sporran is packed with costume required for his various guises.

After stumbling across three strange women (The Weird Sisters), Macbeth and his good friend Banquo, are bequeathed a prophecy of royal promotion and rewards.

Macbeth is soon titled Thane of Cawdor, the other prophecy being he will become King of Scotland. His wife, Lady Macbeth, vows to help him in any way she can. Plots to kill any heirs to the throne ensue, which ensures Macbeth’s highest royal title.

timed to perfection

Banquo, however, was told by the witches his descendants would inherit the throne and Macbeth orders him and his son to be assassinated. The son flees but Banquo’s ghost appears to torment Macbeth and in his worried state, seeks out the witches for another peek into his future. It doesn’t bode well!

Cannon delivers each characterisation seamlessly with humorous flicks of his sash, vocal tonal shifts and the never ending props from his ‘sac magique’! He wears different coloured glasses to convey each witch, converting his posture with ease and switching facial expressions comically.

The lighting by Simon Hayes and sound effects by Dave Trouton and Wendy Weatherby are timed to perfection, changing the ambience for each scene. The scratchy string sounds sends shivers to the spine, encapsulating the scenario.

This is no regular history lesson, or a carbon copy narration of the original work.

ignites the imagination

Cannon is a sovereign performer and a chief in storytelling. His physicality when embodying the varying characters has a mime-like composition which is compelling. Verging on camp at times, he delivers a playful interpretation of Lady Macbeth, a woman out for her own status. When her journey dips ominously, Cannon handles her suicide deftly by simply tying a knot in her headscarf. The symbolism is clear, but the younger audience is spared the atrocity.

He remains perfectly playful when Macbeth meets his own death too. He acts out the holding of the decapitated head with tremendous tangibleness. In fact, the whole performance is produced with such palpability it ignites the imagination to the point of being a part of those very scenes 1000yrs ago.

Even if you are well-versed with Macbeth, Cannon will enlighten you with other parts of the tale you might not have known; how the story actually came about; what is factual versus the fantasy. He can educate the most knowledgeable and inspire the antagonist. If only every school had a history teacher like Andy Cannon!

Running time: one hour (no interval)
Scottish Storytelling Centre, Netherbow Theatre, 43-45 High Street Edinburgh (Venue 30)
Thurs 4 – Sun 21 & Sat 27/Sun 28 August 2022
Daily, not Weds: 11.30am.
Advisory age 8+
Tickets and details: Book here


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