Andrew Eaton-Lewis: At £35 a ticket, Macbeth at Ingliston is much better value than Madonna
I’VE been thinking about spectacle a lot over the past week, probably because I just went to see The Dark Knight Rises at the IMAX in Glasgow, which was a properly spectacular experience.
When an airborne heist scene is that big, and that loud, I barely register how big the plot holes are (and there are lots in this film, as fellow geeks have been obsessively pointing out online for a week now). I’m too busy wondering if that really is Inverness in the far distance. Look, wind farms! None of this, I suspect, will be more than pin-sized on DVD.
There aren’t many live events that can match that kind of sheer check-the-scale wow factor, especially in these recession-hit times, but there are – you lucky people – a few at the Edinburgh festivals next month. The most obvious is Speed Of Light, NVA’s “mass choreographed act of walking and endurance running” on Arthur’s Seat. Whether you run, or walk, or just try to sneak a look from a distance, it’s a show that no lover of spectacle will want to miss.
Ditto the goings on at the Royal Highland Centre in Ingliston, where the Edinburgh International Festival staged Romanian director Silviu Purcarete’s audacious, frequently jaw-dropping production of Faust on a vast set three years ago. Raising the stakes, the EIF is putting three shows on in the venue this year – the only place in town big enough to hold them.
The most spectacular will surely be 2008: Macbeth, a Polish production that promises to do Shakespeare on a scale beyond anything else you’ll find at the festival – including Teatr Biuro Podrozy’s extraordinary stilt-walking, fire-starting, outdoor Macbeth: Who Is That Bloodied Man?, which returns to the festival this year, at the Old College Quad.
The stiltwalking Macbeth is well worth seeing – and half the price of the Ingliston Macbeth. If you want to see the show everyone’s talking about though, Ingliston is the place to be.
Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, of course – ask anyone who’s ever endured a Michael Bay film. For all of Faust’s gigantic bells and whistles, I began to feel restless about an hour in.
I felt much the same way about Fuerzabruta, which set up its big tent in Leith in 2007, riding a wave of Hollywood blockbuster-style hype – the most expensive show ever staged at the Fringe! – but left many audiences wondering what the fuss was about. Yes, the acrobatics and pyrotechnics were dazzling, but what was the point when there was no plot, no character, apparently no underlying meaning of any kind?
That, I remember its producers claiming, was the point – it was sheer, pure spectacle, and yes, that was fine with some people. Personally, though, I agreed with the reviewer who described it as “a mindless piece of rave theatre”.
I have higher hopes for this year’s spectacles. And you should make the most of them while you can. At £35 for a full price ticket, Macbeth at Ingliston represents considerably better value for money than, say, spending hundreds of pounds to see Madonna at Murrayfield.
And as budget cuts continue to bite, it’s the kind of check-the-scale wow factor event that could be an endangered species in festivals to come.
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