There are a number of breakfast-time shows in the Fringe, laying on coffee and croissants to entice people out of their beds after a late night of theatre/comedy/clubbing/whatever. One of the longest running is Shakespeare for Breakfast, which the publicity posters proudly proclaim is now in its twentieth year.
For all its longevity, though, I didn’t know too much about it, other than a friend of mine was closely involved in the production. So I was completely bowled over by an hour of comedy that was the perfect start to a full day of fringe theatre.
Different every year, this year’s show takes one of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedies, Macbeth, and transfers it to the infernal world of the modern high school. The witches become goths, the eponymous power couple become Mac (Joseph Morpurgo), a sensitive musician who eventually harbours ambitions to become head boy, and his girlfriend Beth (Felicity Russell), a cheerleader who sees her own chance of being one half of the school’s power couple.
There are some cracking jokes throughout – a highlight being current head boy Duncan, played by Niall Ransome as a note-perfect impression of Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne. But while the jokes come thick and fast, there is room for poignancy, too. Rather than becoming a ghost, Banquo (Ransome again) is socially ostracised, and when he turns up to a party everybody just ignores him. If anybody ever adapted the Scottish play into a school setting for dramatic reasons rather than a set of hilarious sketches, they would be hard pressed to beat the emotional power the scene punches here.
Clever writing is matched by confident assured performances from the whole cast. Along with the free caffeine and pastry, it provided a real shot in the arm on a cold Edinburgh morning.