Signifying Nothing

Signifying Nothing Adelaide Fringe 2017Hammond Fleet Productions with Holden Street Theatres. Adelaide Fringe. 15 Feb 2017

 

Not since The Boys Own Macbeth has there been such a pithy trespass upon Shakespeare’s telling of the timeless tragedy of political ambition.

 

Today’s culprit is comedian Greg Fleet who calls his quasi Shakespearean confection a “mash-up”. He has contrived a contemporary political plot line which criss-crosses with that of the true Shakespearean Macbeth. The dialogue veers from expletive-laden Ocker vernacular to the Bard’s iambic pentameter. It's not hard to work out which part of the script came from Fleet’s pen. Somehow it all works rather well and Fleet emerges as a passable Shakespearean actor, to boot.

 

His Macbeth is a crass Perth Liberal pollie called Paul Macbeth who is out to unseat the premier of Western Australia. The power behind the throne is his manipulative failed lawyer wife, Lainie Macbeth.  She is embodied by Nicola Bartlett, a skilled actress clearly at home with the classics. 

 

The play is largely set in their snazzy bedroom wherein Lainie uses her feminine powers to urge Macbeth’s ambitions forth. It is a multimedia production. Other characters appear in projected clips. He communicates with Banquo on Skype. Then Banquo’s ghost materialises thus, above the marital bed. There are other apparitions - witches and voters and vox popsters.  Thus is the play a two-hander with a considerable onscreen cast which includes co-producer Roz Hammond along with Luke Hewitt, Matt Dyktinski, Kate Keady and others.

 

It’s an effective contrivance, complementary to the anachronisms of the script “mashup”.

The Macbeths plot the downfall of their competition using media as the lethal tool. And down goes Duncan with compromising photos released to the press. 

 

The nearer they come to their awful goals, the more their world crumbles. Drunk with power, they go on cocaine binges, one of which gives opening to the best gag in the play for, indeed, the comedian has not resisted the temptation to subtly pepper the production with good gags.

 

Bottom line is that while Signifying Nothing retains its intensity as Shakespearean tragedy it makes the point that politics then and now is an ugly game.

 

Fleet has his ways to underscore this in his performance - a singularly craven smile, a gloriously sickly false laugh…

 

The production not only works, it is absolutely wonderful.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

Samela Harris

 

When: 15 Feb to 19 Mar

Where: The Studio, Holden Street Theatre 

Bookings: adelaidefringe.com.au

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