Review: Elsie & Norm’s ‘Macbeth’

Anna Clarke
May 18th, 2016

This article is more than 7 years old.

Is this a success which i see before me

Fire burn and Swedish glögg set bubble (photo: Nathan Woods)

John Christopher-Wood’s irreverent comic retelling of the beloved Shakespearean tragedy ‘Macbeth’ is certainly an unorthodox choice of tribute to the bard on his 400th anniversary.

But its selection by Down the Rabbit Hole – the brand new English-language company formed this year with a central focus on immersive and innovative theatre – comes as no real surprise.

READ MORE: New theatre group will take audiences down the rabbit hole

No more Trivial Pursuit
The play’s central duo, Elsie & Norm –  acted by Vanessa Poole and Jens Blegaa –  are an English couple who have grown tired of their Friday night Trivial Pursuit death match, so they decide to inject some cultural impetus into their bland existence.

They foolhardily stage Macbeth in their cosy sitting room, simplifying the long-winded prose and taking on the play’s entire cast of characters themselves.

Down the hatch
For Down the Rabbit Hole’s maiden performance, ‘Elsie & Norm’s ‘Macbeth” was staged in the clothing store A Touch of Vintage, aptly accessible only through a cellar hatch door. The snug environment ensured audience members were intimate participants in the night’s theatrics.

The detailed tongue-in-cheek props – which included Lady Macbeth’s butter knife and a Swedish copper glögg set for the witch’s cauldron – added an additional sprinkle of hilarity to a play strewn with thick and fast gags.

And with energetic performances from Poole and Blegaa, even the Macbeths – the most dysfunctional duo in literary history – appeared loveable.

Possibly not for purists
To some Shakespearean purists the very thought of combining Shakespeare and slapstick in the same sentence, let alone on the same stage, would cause them to break out in a nervous, cold sweat.

But for those of you keen to see the dust blown off the bard’s 400-year-old prose – and Banquo played by a stuffed panda, because, well, why the hell not? – then Elsie & Norm’s play’s the thing. 


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