White Whale Theatre's audacious, hilarious, horror movie homage is a sequel to Shakespeare's Macbeth. That's right, a sequel. Turns out the witches' magic is stronger than Macduff's sword; so even though he's been decapitated, Macbeth manages to return from the grave and wreak havoc upon Scotland once more, aided and abetted by the witch-goddess Hecate, his reanimated wife Lady Macbeth (who's now seeing damned spots everywhere, not just on her hands) and a ravening undead horde.
Written and directed by David Mence in 2004, and originally staged at Melbourne University that same year, the play and its players then embarked for the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006, where they garnered rave reviews ("Macbeth meets Shaun of the Dead in B-grade movie schlock-horror splendour!" raved The Scotsman). Now it's been remounted at Trades Hall, with a cast of 13, a magnificent set of crags and standing stones that's more lavish than most independent theatre companies would ever dream of (kudos to set & costume designer Christina Logan-Bell and set constructor Shane Lee), and some truly spectacular gross-out special effects.
On one level, Macbeth Re-Arisen is a serious exploration of the themes of Macbeth: the natural order has been disturbed by Macbeth's murder of the King, and the resulting chaos is spinning out of control. Characters and scenes from the original are seamlessly wrought into Mence's text, which is audaciously written in iambic pemtameter, and scattered with references not only to 'the Scottish play', but other works by the Bard, as well as evoking the gleefully pitch-black humour of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy.
Opening with the original 'blasted heath' scene when Macbeth firsts meets the weird sisters, the play leaps to Macbeth's death at the hands of Macduff, then segues smoothly into new material: Malcolm is crowned king, a heart-sick Macduff becomes a hermit, and Macbeth rises from his shallow grave, his neck a gaping, gory wound.
Soon, blood is fountaining across the stage (the scene where Macbeth murders a young man who has interrupted his soliloquy by plunging a hand through his chest is to die for), a zombie army is on the march, and things look black for Scotland. The only light is cast by the appearance of Banquo's ghost, who sets Macduff's feet on the downward path to Hell itself, where salvation in the form of an accursed tome writ in human blood may yet be found...
As pastiches go, Macbeth Re-Arisen is a right bloody marvel. It's full of sly digs to literary convention, and revels in the fact; and is also a gloriously gory homage to 80s horror films. Performances are strong throughout, especially Craig Annis' gleefully scenery-chewing turn as Macbeth, Grant Foulkes as a suitably sombre and sick of life Macduff, and Michael Finney as young Fleance, Banquo's son. As you can tell, I adored it. It's last performance of the season is tonight: see it, or rue that you've missed it for the rest of your miserable life.
Bookings: www.easytix.com.au or 9639 0096, or on the door at Trades Hall's New Ballroom.