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Dickens Theatre Company presents their Revision On Tour series, staging school-friendly versions of regularly studied classic texts. This week begins with Macbeth, concluding on Tues 30 April, followed by Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and Romeo & Juliet on 1st and 2nd May respectively.

Their production of ‘the Scottish Play’ comprises a shortened version of Shakespeare's text, narrated in more accessible language by Felix Grainger as The Porter. Generally the (necessary) comic relief of the otherwise tragic and bloody play, the Porter character often talks directly to the audience, making him a natural choice to guide us through this version. Grainger approaches the role with a great deal of energy, and does a good job of engaging the audience.

The extra text is written by Ryan Philpott, who is also the company’s Artistic Director. The additions flesh out the plot for anyone finding Shakespeare’s language a bit difficult to follow, and add some lightness and humour to the play. The Porter is dismissive of Shakespeare’s bawdy Elizabethan jokes, replacing them with a dig at the ‘Point, Evidence, Explain’ system favoured in English essays - it got a big laugh from students and teachers alike.

Dickens Theatre is a repertory company, with Rob Wolfe who led as Macbeth playing Dr Jeckyll and (spoilers) Mr Hyde on Wednesday, and Oriana Charles, who played Lady Macbeth, returning as a different tragic lead on Thursday, as she plays Juliet. It’s a nice touch, appealing to any returning young fans of performance and theatre, who will no doubt be interested to see the same actors playing vastly different characters.

The show was fast paced enough to squeeze the whole story into under two hours, including the 20 minute interval. The performances were competent and clear - necessary in a production which caters to a younger audience. There were, however, a couple of moments where corners were cut in the story to keep things moving. Let’s hope no-one writes an essay about the moment Lady Macbeth got out of bed and turned into a witch - admittedly, it’s an innovative piece of double-casting.

Dickens Theatre Company provides a solid introduction to classic literature, while maintaining integrity. The audience were gripped from start to finish, and it’s a unique way to bring compulsory GCSE texts to the stage. For young people studying, or anyone who is interested in an easy introduction to Shakespeare, the company has plenty to offer.

Four Stars

Macbeth was reviewed by Jessica Clixby on Monday 29 April at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre, where it runs until Tuesday 30.