At just 45 minutes long, Our Soldier glories in its own simplicity, pulling and contorting the elements of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth into a tale as twisted as the limbs that spin and jump across the stage. Fools Play Collective’s production has undergone much reshaping and restructuring and yet this most recent performance distils the story of Macbeth to its finest elements and translates them from the abstract into the physicality of the actors, who unleash themes such as power through the sheer ferocity of their movements.
This adaptation of a 500 year old story of castles and witches takes us to the achingly modern world of suitcases, khaki army uniforms and war correspondents. Our war correspondent, played beautifully by Lottie Ormerod is indeed a mixed blessing. Serving as our narrator she is both funny and endearing, a light relief against the darker elements of this play. In becoming our representative, she also becomes the only actor upon the stage to actually speak, thus producing a strange sense of detachment towards the others who become almost mere vessels for the all consuming lust for power that envelops their army base.
And yet the appearances of our dear war correspondent makes for a show that is almost schizophrenic in its tone, her cheery demeanour and innocence sometimes jarring the foreboding atmosphere created by our silent players. By taking away their voices, the remaining actors weave a spell of physical feats, the intensity of which perfectly interweaves this sense of physical and abstract power whilst still retaining the elegance and grace of a ballet. They are at their best in moments such as the dispatching of Macbeth’s enemies although it must be said that the energy slightly depletes as Macbeth’s strength unravels.
Our Soldier’s strength lies in its physicality and yet the playfulness and sense of fun that inhabits it excels a straight forward piece of physical theatre. Their use of torch light and sheets is incredibly simple and yet extremely effective in its inventiveness. The addition of a small child like puppet that communicates to Macbeth through a strange, slow recorded voice also makes for a haunting addition. And yet the striking point of this piece is the modern interpretation of the witches that taunt Macbeth with prophecies. Encroaching around him in this production are three men in suits with suitcases instead of heads, leaping and dancing around this terrified soldier in a way that resonates strongly with the profiteering nature of some of the world’s most recent conflicts. Well contained and physically compelling, Our Soldier excels in creating images such as this and serve for a memorable piece.