Festival review: Macbeth on Inchcolm; Summerhall (venue 26)

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In 1989 the artist Ricky Demarco took a Macbeth to Inchcolm, in the Firth of Forth, which by most accounts went down swimmingly.

More than 20 years later he’s back, helping bring a Macbeth from the Hands in the Air company of St Andrew’s University, who had performed the Scottish play in St Andrews Castle.

It’s a student production in a straight textual version of the play. The result is a three-star performance in a five-star setting. It is helped by five-star weather, making for an unforgettable ferry ride under the Forth Bridge.

The arrival is very promising; the distant sight of battles from the ferry, plainsong over the loudspeaker and witches. Three very winsome hags drift around on board and, once on the island, give a classy siren-like opening against the sound of wheeling gulls. They then follow the action round the abbey from windows and doorways, like Spice Girls swathed in white.

The audience of 120 is moved very successfully, cloaked in grey blankets (a nice touch) through the abbey’s courtyards and arched halls. All credit to the actors for passing the first test of an outdoor production and making the lines audible, even against approaching aircraft.

Macbeth, however, is played by a student actor in his very first role. When the action whips along, so does the play. But with a conventional Macbeth, the most demanding scenes become tiresome. It needs more weirdness, more poetry and fewer shouty bits. It’s a certain sell-out, but if they are back next year, with the setting mastered, the casting and direction must move up a notch.

Rating: * * * *

Until 19 August. 16 August, 6:30pm.