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Out of Joint (2004 Tour)
Reviewed by Alex Waddington

It's not every day that a trip to the theatre begins with a trudge through the nippy night air into the dusty loading bay of an old mill in deepest darkest Batley.

Nor is it usual to have your ticket is checked by sinister individuals wearing sunglasses and army fatigues, who demand photographic ID and bark at you to hurry up.

But then again, Out of Joint isn't your average touring theatre company.

Director and founder Max Stafford-Clark has a reputation for the unconventional - and this promenade production is about as far removed from a traditional evening among the over 50s and their tubs of ice cream as you are likely to get.

Macbeth is known widely as 'the Scottish play' and on initial reflection it seems a little odd this production should be set in Africa. This becomes less troublesome, though, when you consider the main themes of Shakespeare's shortest tragedy; civil war, genocide and corruption.

You only have to look at Rwanda and Sierra Leone in the 1990s, Liberia in the late 1980s, Uganda in the 1970s and, more recently, Sudan, to see the glaring parallels.

It's also well documented that infamous Ugandan leader Idi Amin had a fascination with all things Caledonian. His enthusiasm was such that he even learned to play the bagpipes and decked some of his soldiers out in kilts.

On this first leg of the tour, the production commenced in a large, dark and dusty room within Batley's Redbrick Mill, which is primarily a place to buy tasteful home furnishings.

As the audience filed in, freshly harassed by the shifty characters manning the entrance, around one dozen actors began to sing, beat a variety of instruments and dance. The African rhythm rumbled to a crescendo, a witchdoctor flailed his arms and sinister shadows licked against bare brick walls and piles of junk.

Having never previously read or seen this play, I was baffled by the French dialogue used by the witches in the opening scenes.

In fact, the famous sorcerers frequently revert to Gallic tongue in this Stafford-Clark interpretation, reflecting the fact French is the first language in many parts of Africa. But as someone who believes theatre should be accessible to everyone - not just those who have studied a play or excel at a foreign language - this proved annoying and frustrating in the extreme.

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Alex Waddington saw Macbeth by the Out of Joint theatre company at the Redbrick Mill, Batley on 10th September 2004.

Out Of Joint will be touring in April, May and June 2005 with 'Talking To Terrorists'. For dates and venues, click here.

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Roman Polanski's Macbeth DVD [1971]

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Macbeth (Sir Alec Guinness) Audiobook CD

Macbeth: BBC Radio 3 Dramatisation CDs

GCSE Macbeth Study CD-Roms

Shakespeare Made Easy: Macbeth

Macbeth (Arden Shakespeare)

Macbeth (New Cambridge Shakespeare)

York Notes Advanced: Macbeth

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