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Dark cradle of war

MACBETH Shakespeare in Education Schools Tour

Director Stewart Mcgill and the young graduates of the Birmingham Theatre School who have formed this company with sponsorship from South Birmingham College, succesfully bring a youthful and contemporary flavour to the play without undue forcing.

Most controversial is the opening sequence, in which the Macbeths are viewed silently weeping over a tiny coffin, and photographic images of babies' heads, distorted by enlargement, are the backdrop to the simple black and red metallic set. But are they babies bursting into the world or evil hatching from some monstrous womb? - their ambivalence gives great power to the design by Laura O'Connell and Jo Deighton.

Although the production is mounted on a tight budget, with six actors trebling and quadrupling roles, it nevertheless gives a clear, slightly edited but well-rounded account of Shakespeare's text and, played at a smart pace, runs to an hour and three quarters without an interval.

It holds the attention well, partly because these young actors so clearly believe in what they are saying and doing. They speak the text with a truthful conviction that comes out of thoughtful rehearsal work, even if passion sometimes wins over vocal control.

Some imaginative highspots are the mimed tableaux - cutting down branches in Burnham Wood and the hard-fought advance to Dunsinane Castle, where the final encounter between Macbeth (Mark Logan) and Macduff (Ryan Fox), hacking at each other with heavy broad swords, is no cause for giggles even at the close quarters of a school hall.

The production tours in Shropshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, HerefordWorcester, Northants, Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Coventry, until mid April. Enquiries: 021 440 8772.

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