Smashing Shakespeare

Aug 7 2017 | By More

★★★★☆  Slick

Rose Theatre (Venue 76): Fri 4 – Mon 14 Aug 2017
Review: Linus West

Captivate Theatre has earned a reputation for energetic, witty performances. With Smashing Shakespeare, in the Rose Theatre until August 14, it lives up to that expectation.

This is a joyful, roller-coaster of a show, with short versions of both Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, brought to life by a talented cast of young actors.

A scene from Macbeth. Pic Linus West

The plays serve different purposes for different age groups – for older generations renewing and poking fun at some timeless masterpieces. It also gives younger viewers an easy, entertaining transition into the world of Shakespeare.

The show kicks off in the opening scene of Macbeth; three scheming witches, hatching plans to corrupt the Scottish general and place him on the throne. The lighting, costume and tech instantly all hit you as slick and professional, perfected down to the last detail. An absolute pleasure for the eye.

In his role of the flawed protagonist, Alex Gavin punches above his weight. A junior cast member who could have easily been dismissed as too inexperienced, he just keeps on proving himself to be up for the task. Gavin has a natural flair for acting, and charming, witty charisma.

Daring gamble

This is the case in both halves of the production; younger actors, barely into secondary school, fast-tracked to the most prominent characters. It’s a daring gamble, but one that pays off. It doesn’t just make for some comic age differences, but genuinely good performances.

Macbeth. Pic Linus West

Macbeth’s wife pushes him to follow the witches’ instructions, murder the king, and seize the throne for himself. Katie Rough steals the first half of the show with her take on the character; embracing a comically unhinged Queen, desperate for power.

The explosive opening scenes, however, makes the rest of Macbeth feel low-energy. It plays all its cards at the very first opportunity, lessening the efforts the young actors continue to put in for the rest of the show.

Cameron Kelsey tackles the role of Banquo, Macbeth’s ally-turned-rival. He executes it well, breathing a new personality into the general. No quarter is given in taking the mickey out of his tendency for caution – Kelsey transforms him into a fully-fledged wimp.

That is, ultimately, what this production is about. Maintaining all the key plot points and iconic lines of Shakespeare’s scripts, while renewing them for the medium of musical comedy. It’s an unforgiving parody, but nonetheless feels right, despite a somewhat rushed conclusion.

roaring success

The opening scene of Romeo and Juliet, is again, a roaring success. Sally Lyall’s script takes full advantage of the more weird lines in Shakespeare’s original writing, mercilessly exposing them for comic effect. Not to mention the group’s natural ability to burst into song, which all of this is depicted through.

Romeo and Juliet. Pic: Linus West

Any one cast member is a pleasure to listen to, they’ve all clearly been put through some vigorous vocal exercises. When they come together and sing in harmony it’s a joy – depicting the bitter rivalry between the two houses of Capulet and Montague through genius lyrics, easy to clap along to.

Just like Gavin in the role of Macbeth, Tom Barclay as Romeo at first glance appears to be too young for the responsibility. However, he delivers almost flawlessly, leaving no doubt that the casting choice was the right one. The script in fact takes full advantage of this; time and time again pointing out the absurd height difference between himself and Juliet.

Portraying the second of the two star-crossed lovers, Lily Constanti sticks closer to the original text than any other cast member, depicting a more rigid, down-to-earth character. However, it works – the comic contrast of serious and silly actors is well-executed.

Now and again, the actors hesitate onstage. Some are yet to break out of their shell. However, that’s a minor criticism – they are already delivering more than what could be expected for someone of their age. Every one of them should be proud.


Finally, there is the Nurse; tasked with aiding Juliet in her endeavours to bring the couple together. Calum Waters easily delivers the most memorable performance of the entire production, taking parody to a new extreme. Without giving too much away, the absurdity of what he does is side-splitting – unapologetically embodying a “naughty nurse”.

Shakespeare must be turning in his grave.

This half of the production manages to keep momentum the whole way through. There’s no plateau, it just keeps chugging along.

Smashing Shakespeare is a safe bet at the Fringe, no matter what age the audience. Nothing ground-breaking, but an easy barrel of laughs. Both veterans of and newcomers to Shakespeare will find much to enjoy in this polished production.

Running time 2 hours (including one five-minute interval)
Rose Theatre, 204 Rose Street, EH2 VAZ (Venue 76)
Friday 4 – Monday 14 August 2017
Daily, 11:30am
Tickets from the #EdFringe website:

Company website:
Facebook: captivatetheatre
Twitter: @Captivate_LTD


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