fringe: signifying nothing

adelaide fringe: signifying nothing
Signifying Nothing is Shakespeare done the way it's meant to be done... but with a twist.

Writer, co-director and star Greg Fleet takes the idea of the cut and thrust of the modern Australian political landscape and overlays it on the tale of deceit and ambition that is Shakespeare's Macbeth. Lord and Lady Macbeth become Paul and Lainey Macbeth... and the kingdom of Scotland becomes the premiership of Perth.

All of the action takes place in and around the bedroom of the Macbeths which makes perfect sense the more I think about it.

Half of the language is the bard's original, the other is Fleet's very modern Australian vernacular and parlance... not to mention a hell of a lot of profanity. Sometimes a word or two of modern language will creep into the Shakespeare to have it make sense in the world of the story.

And, you know what, it works... it works to perfection. It really shouldn't... but it does.

Fleet manages to capture the intent of Shakespeare's dialogue and then reinterpret it to fit his modern day context, weaving the two styles together so well that it never seems odd to go from Macbeth talking about taking Fleance to the football to Lainey reciting Lady Macbeth's first monologue direct from the play.

My ongoing love and familiarity with the Scottish play is, at this point, well know... and I will say that this is one of the best versions I've seen. It's a big call, but it's one I think is is well deserved.

A big part of that is Nicola Bartlett as the Lady to Fleet's Lord. She performs her lines the way that I want to see it done in every Shakespeare play that I see, with emotion and thought and feeling. They're not just a procession of words to be gotten out in the right order... no, Lainey Macbeth exists as a three dimensional character who is clearly thinking, feeling, plotting, scheming and manipulating with all the light and shade that that implies while speaking both Shakespeare's words and Fleet's.

Fleet's Macbeth is likewise fully formed, but he doesn't seem to have quite so much of the heavy lifting as far as the bard's prose is concerned. He also manages to make his Macbeth very charismatic.

Macbeth's friend and fellow politician Banquo (Luke Hewitt) and the five witches, as well as some initial set up and a recurring interview between Macbeth and a reporter (Roz Hammond) all take place projected onto the screen behind the bed (within the fiction of the play's universe, I think it's all happening on phone, tablet or television screens). It's an interesting technique and allows for additional parts of the narrative without additional actors on the ground.

To me this works the best in the initial conversation with Banquo and in the interactions with the witches. This is also ties into the use of technology in the rest of the play, specifically the "killing" of Duncan politically with a scandal rather than actually stabbing him.

As this version is only an hour long, and switches between modern language and the original text, all while focusing exclusively on the titular couple... so naturally there was a lot of the original play that had to go to make way for the new content. While it makes sense, I was sad to see sections like the entire banquet sequence be lost. It also felt like there were lines from parts of the play that I don't generally see performed.

Fleet's music choices also felt particularly spot on throughout the play, especially in the sequence where he mimes to a song (The Nosebleed Section by Hilltop Hoods, I think). It could have felt weird and out of place, but worked incredibly well.

If I had any complaints at all it would be that occasionally the prerecorded audio was a little hard to discern all the words to... particularly with the witches.

All in all I could not have asked for a better show to close out my Fringe 2017 experience.

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