Theatre Arcturus’ show Weird: The Witches of Macbeth , presented as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, combines two things I love: Macbeth, one of my favourite Shakespeare plays because of its dark, occult elements, and Cirque du Soleil-style aerial performances. The result is unexpected, original and thrilling.
For Weird, playwright Phillip Psutka uses the scenes in Shakespeare’s text that feature the witches and expands on them, writing original material in the style of Shakespeare to create the witches’ back-story. We’re seeing the story of Macbeth from the witches’ point of view. Witnessing their conflicts and developing a deeper understanding of their motivations.
I really enjoyed the writing and thought the original dialogue blended seamlessly with Shakespeare’s to the point where I was constantly trying to figure out which lines were new and which ones were from the original play. The script does presuppose the audience member’s familiarity with Macbeth so if you haven’t seen or read it in a while, I’d recommend at least reading a synopsis to get the proper context for Weird.
Although the aerial acrobatics are the other prominently featured element in Weird, there’s a heavier focus on the script than there is on the aerial performances which are more often used to highlight the action of a scene rather than being featured on their own.
The performance elements that are featured are in turns beautiful and thrilling to watch. Performers climb up to dizzying heights, wrap themselves in the fabric, drop from heights while suspended, roll down the length of the fabric, or simply hang in elaborate poses. It may be a bit of a gimmick but it’s one that works exceptionally well in this show.
The three incredibly talented performers, Lindsay Bellaire, Sheelagh Daly, and Emily Hughes are as adept at handling the dense dialogue in Shakespearean style old English as they are with the high-flying aerial acrobatics. Sometimes they even do both at the same time.
The staging of the second prophecy (aka the cauldron scene) from Macbeth at the climax of Weird is perhaps the scene where the script, the aerial performances and the production elements come together the best. It’s truly dazzling.
With Weird, Theatre Arcturus offers one of the more inventive and original adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth you’re likely to see on stage. It’s definitely worth checking out.
- Weird: The Witches of Macbeth plays at the Randolph Theatre. (736 Bathurst St)
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance, and can be bought online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a ramp at the building’s northwest corner. Please arrive early and ask to speak with the House Manager.
- Thursday June 30th, 11:00 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 09:45 pm
- Monday July 4th, 04:15 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 06:45 pm
- Wednesday July 6th, 01:45 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 07:30 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 06:15 pm
Photo of Emily Hughes and Lindsay Bellaire by Andrew Alexander