Paradok Platform

Aug 19 2022 | By More

★★★★☆    Original Shakespeare

Just the Tonic La Belle Angel: Thurs 4 – Sun 28 Aug 2022
Review by Tom Ralphs

Theatre Paradok, the Edinburgh theatre company that is “experimental without being exclusive” is bringing nine new pieces of experimental theatre to their 5pm slot at La Belle Angel for this year’s fringe.

The sixth of these is a two-woman production of Macbeth that, at surface level may seem at odds with the company’s claim to produce original experimental shows, but which is still a very inventive take on the play that dare not speak its name.

Programme image for Macbeth.

The first thing to grab the attention on the venue’s cavernous stage is the minimal set, consisting solely of an antique style table and two accompanying chairs. On a smaller stage it would seem as if it was minimal out of necessity rather than design, but here it is an obvious style choice.

This is accompanied by a soundtrack of 50s American doo-wop style songs that are ultimately a more confusing choice, calling to mind Blue Velvet era David Lynch and evoking a time and atmosphere that aren’t reflected in the production itself.

The play proper opens with Lady Macbeth, played by Poppy Goad, pouring red wine into two glasses, introducing the blood metaphor that is inevitably returned to throughout the hour. As Macbeth (Josie Embleton), returns from the battles she has been fighting and talk turns to the Wyrd Sisters’ prophecies, it becomes clear that the choice that has been made to retain, rather than update, the language of the play.

Against the stark backdrop of the stage design and accompanied by Naqib Fakhrul’s sound design this gives the production a gothic overtone, which is reinforced by the costumes and by the performances of Goad and Embleton, who are also the directors of the production. The delivery is never short of dramatic with every moment of passion, anger and frustration played out for maximum impact.

great unknown

The two have clearly embraced the potential of the setting, with Goad leaving the stage to deliver lines out from, and into, the void of shadows in the hall and Embleton also stepping into this great unknown later in the production.

Alexander Moran’s lighting design is the final part of the picture, a bank of lights spread across three walls that change colour and mood with a dramatic effect that belies their simplicity. It is particularly effective when they bathe Macbeth in a blood red glow before flashing on and off to create their inner hell and torment before later switching to a pure white that hints at both an unreal calmness and a world where all the sins are out in the open and clear to see.

The only real downside of the production is that for all of its strengths, it remains a story that has been told so many times before, delivered in the language that has been used in most of the retellings. It shows the technical excellence and acting skills of its cast and crew, but it provides no heart stopping moments or true suspense as the trajectory is set from the beginning.

It lays a better claim to experimental than to original, but is still a powerful showcase production.

Running time: One hour
Just the Tonic at La Belle Angel, 11 Hastie’s Close, EH1 1HJ (Venue 301)
Thursday 4 – Sunday 28 August 2022
(Nine productions across the run. Macbeth: 17 – 19 August)
Afternoons: 17.00.
Tickets and details: Book here.
Paradok Platform: details here.

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Twitter: @theatreparadok


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