written and directed by Jeff
new play took a fresh look at Shakespeare’s Macbeth
and turns the traditional story on its head.
Ross, written and directed by Jeff
Moule, looks at the events of the original play through
the eyes of a minor character, whose name gives the new
work its title.
In Shakespeare’s version, Ross is a
fellow soldier with Macbeth, and witnesses his comrade’s
rise to power as a blood-thirsty, paranoid King. He
watches much of the action, but says nothing.
Jeff Moule’s new play gave him a
voice and put him at the heart of the action in a way
that challenges the audience’s traditional understanding
of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Ross was performed in blank verse, echoing the spirit of
the original without being a parody. It also drew on
historical sources about the real Macbeth. And of course,
it wouldn’t be complete without some witches.
NODA Review by Joyce Handbury
This play has
been written and directed by Jeff Moule and is premiered
by Belper Players following his four previous
collaborations with them. It is based on Shakespeare’s
Macbeth but Jeff decided to write this alternative play
making Ross the central character. In the original play,
the Thane of Ross was the bringer of messages and the
describing of events to the main characters so in fact,
was very much in the ‘centre of things’. From this
perspective, Jeff evolved his plot around the very
aspirational Ross, making him the main protagonist, also
making more prominent, the role of Lady Macbeth and,
Ross and Lady Macbeth were lovers.
There was no
set as such, the balcony at the Centre had been covered
so as to resemble a castle battlement whilst the floor
was an arrangement of 16 black and white squares. Good
use was made of large black cubes.
The title role
of Ross was extremely well played by James Strath. His
very wordy script was so effortlessly, efficiently and
competently delivered. Beth Undy was superb as Lady
Macbeth. She wonderfully and dramatically captured the
obsessive determination in her belief that she should be
Queen, to finally becoming so mentally and hysterically
unstable that she eventually ‘fell’ from the battements
- a great performance. Henry Stubbs was first rate as
Sergeant, he was so natural in his delivery and the two
Soldiers played by George Comber and Matthew Mellors
were splendid. Freddy Levesley excelled as Fleance, the
young son of Banquo. He was so self assured for one so
young and his diction was spot on. The witches played by
Jane Wilton, Mollie Middleton, Janet Allison and Tracey
Wilkinson were so deliciously and delightfully
‘frightful’. They were depicted as traders, mainly in
goods taken from dead bodies, as drug dealers and of
course having the ability to cast spells. Their
fantastic costumes and make up were just so outrageous,
as was their behaviour - they were terrific and
obviously enjoyed every moment! I thought the
recollections of events by Porter were so brilliantly
and humorously delivered by Michael Fletcher and the
scene where he, the Gateman (Jeremy Crane), the Servant
(John Briscoe) and the Maid (Sarah Holme) were gossiping
about what had gone on elsewhere, was so full of
anecdotes, opinions and mischief it was so perfectly and
so naturally expressed. Good support came from Terry
Stevenson (Angus), Nick Mothershaw (Menteith), Roger
Whiting (Banquo) and Martin Drake (Lennox). Some scenes
were quite harrowing but so well executed and the
excellent sound and lighting effects added to their
overall effectiveness. Music throughout was by Susan
Stevenson and Mark Webster’s playing of the Bagpipes
certainly added authenticity and ambiance to the
setting. Costuming was modern in style with the
exception of Lady Macbeth who wore several, most
beautiful, medieval gowns. Jeff Moule certainly achieved
his aim in setting out to devise a plot that would weave
in and out of Shakespeare’s tale and see it in a
different perspective. His hours of research and writing
resulted in a very thought provoking and totally
creative and innovative take on an established piece
of play writing and his super-objective “Blame not
witches, sprites or elves, the harm we do, we do
ourselves” said by the witches at the end of the play,
was definitely met. Many congratulations to everyone
It’s a brave writer who
attempts to tweak a Shakespeare play, but Jeff Moule
clearly wasn’t daunted by such a challenge and the
result of his labours – Ross A Scottish Play – was
premiered by the Belper Players last night.
Ross, a minor character
in The Bard’s Macbeth, is responsible for delivering
messages to the major characters, which means is he is
on the spot during many of the play’s significant
events. But what might have been going on behind the
fascinated by that question, set out to devise a plot
that would weave in and out of Shakespeare’s tale, but
would be seen from a new perspective – with Ross as the
He has also brought
Lady Macbeth to the fore with a new interpretation of
what she may have been plotting, with her ambitious
lover the Viking Thane of Ross, played by James Strath.
madwoman was transformed into a more politically
intelligent, feisty woman, who planned to reclaim the
throne for the Viking Picts and Brianna Undy gave an
extremely polished performance in the role.
It was Moule’s version
of the witches that made this drama for me though.
I have seen The
Scottish Play many a time in various different guises,
but I can truly say that these were the most authentic
and convincing witches I have ever encountered.
They were cast as an
underclass to which we can so relate today –
socially abandoned human scavengers dealing in drugs and
stolen goods. The characters created by Jane Wilton,
Janet Allison, Tracey Wilkinson and Mollie Middleton
were superb. Both terrifyingly devilish and amusing, but
somehow strangely upsetting.
If you are looking for
an amateur dramatic group to stage an ambitious new play
then the Belper Players must come high up on the list.
They rarely fail to deliver.
This is the fifth time
that Moule has worked with the team and they clearly
have a great rapport. Under his direction they
worked hard with his impressive, but challenging script
and the restraints of the stage space at Strutt
Centre in Belper.
The witches aside, I
particularly enjoyed a scene during which the downstairs
staff gossiped about the banquet where Macbeth saw the
ghost of Banquo and I thought the battle scenes were
also very cleverly co-ordinated.
Whether or not you are
a Shakespeare fan this interesting play is definitely
The rest of the cast
were Terry Stevenson, Nick Mothershaw, Henry Stubbs,
George Comber, Matthew Mellers, Freddy Levesley, Sarah
Holme, Martin Drake, Roger Whiting, Michael Fletcher,
Jeremy Crane and John Briscoe.
The music was by Susan
Stevenson and the live bagpipe playing by Mark Webster.
The set design was by Terry Stevenson and the company
and the lighting and sound was by Jamie Vella.