Before I attended Little Angel Theatre's production of Macbeth I was worried. Who, I wondered, is the target audience for a puppet show version of the Scottish play, with the characters rendered not as humans but as a variety of birds, and yet which is unsuitable for under twelves? Will this be the kind of folly that disappears without trace leaving behind it only a sorry landscape of empty seats, fresh debts, broken friendships and baffled resentment? Could there be trouble ahead?

Happily my caution was misplaced – this is a beautiful and moving production that should appeal to anyone with a capacity for wonder.

Oddly the puppets are for large proportions of the action static, they move less frequently and suddenly than a human cast would dare to. Furthermore they have few moving parts, and for much  of  the time they stand in profile, only the long necks of the royal swans (Duncan and Malcom) suggest movements in the round. The cockerels that depict the nobility (including Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo and MacDuff) are sturdier presences, each somewhere between a hand-carved chess piece and an umbrella handle, and the commoners are a variety of smaller birds. The immaculate lighting is kept low, while the soundtrack is a well judged mixture of atonal menace and bursts of sudden birdsong.

As a consequence the rare gestures and poses the puppets mimic attain a kind of operatic or exemplary quality. In doing so they reawaken much of the strangeness of a text made staid by familiarity. This is live Shakespeare for people who don't want actors to get in the way. It benefits further in this regard from a terrific, wonderfully fluent soundtrack recorded for the production, which includes the voices of Nathaniel Parker as Macbeth, Helen McCrory as Lady Macbeth, Donald Sumpter as Duncan, and Steven Maddocks as Banquo; a cast list that wouldn't look out of place at the National. It's also been intelligently pared down, running to a little over 80 minutes without an interval. Few will miss the sections cut.

Unsurprisingly metaphors about flight come alive, as do all mentions of birds (I jotted down references to geese, swans, ravens, chickens, cocks, owls, crows and vultures and no doubt I missed others). But there are also moments of shimmering beauty created by the production team's own sure touch: the murder of Macduff's children is especially vivid and haunting, while Lady Macbeth's rage — evoked by a white cloth that seems to curl away from her — suggests a landscape on the borderline of the uncanny and magical which is in perfect keeping with the tone of the production.

Puppeteers Claire Harvey, Lori Hopkins and Lowri James and Director Peter Glanville have clearly put the collective effect ahead of individual flourishes and the result is an accomplished and memorable piece of art. The only pity is that under-12s are considered too young, as this is the kind of production that might inspire lifelong devotion to Shakespeare. Even Michael Gove might approve.

Macbeth, at Little Angel Theatre

Macbeth, 'red in tooth and claw'. The Bard's tragedy is reimagined as an orgy of ornithocide in this new puppet production for the over twelves. At Little Angel Theatre.

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