Shakespeare tragedy goes Forth for island showcase

The three witches of Macbeth on Inchcolm for the 1989 production
The three witches of Macbeth on Inchcolm for the 1989 production
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A GROUP of Scots students is to stage a Shakespeare play on an island in the middle of the Forth after impressing a top theatre boss.

The troupe, which studies at St Andrews University, originally performed Macbeth at St Andrews Castle last year.

The students’ performance attracted the attention of Richard Demarco, co-founder of the Traverse Theatre, who asked them if they wanted to recreate his 1989 production of the play on Inchcolm Island.

The group plans to transport its audience by boat to the island, which lies three-and-a-half miles off the Edinburgh coast.

As many as 100 people a night will then be shepherded around the island while the 19 cast members perform the piece, which takes place almost entirely outdoors.

Producer Elizabeth Stone, 19, said Mr Demarco had approached them after seeing their Fife performance.

“We put on a performance in St Andrews and Richard Demarco came to see it,” said the third-year French and Spanish student. “He asked us if we’d like to take it to Inchcolm Island.

“It’s a cast of about 19, with some roles doubling up. It’s almost the full Shakespeare play, with just a few cuts.

“It’s very exciting. It’s so different taking the play out of Edinburgh and out of the chaos that’s normally there during the Fringe.”

Theatre-goers will meet at Hawes Pier in South Queensferry and from there be ferried to Inchcolm.

Unusually, the performance will begin on the water as the battle referred to in Macbeth’s first act will be raging as they approach the island.

“It’s a promenade performance,” said Ms Stone. “There is two ticket tiers, depending on whether you are taking the bus from Summerhall or whether you meet at Hawes Pier, but everyone will have to get a boat out there.

“There will be actors on the boat and music. As they are approaching they’ll see the actors recreating the battle that’s referred to in the first act of the play. The audience will be transported off the boat by actors and follow them around the island and the abbey.”

She added: “The abbey itself is covered in places so we are asking the audience to dress appropriately, but it won’t be as bad as doing it in St Andrews where there was no roof at all.”

If the weather is exceptionally bad, however, the entire performance could be called off as there is no 
alternative venue.

“If the boats don’t run we can’t get to the island and, in that instance, it wouldn’t go ahead, but we are told that only in very severe weather will that happen.

She also hopes to avoid a repeat of the chaos which marred Demarco’s 1989 performance, which saw 30 theatre-goers stranded on the pier after the performance was overbooked.

“It’s always a risk with a production like this that it will sell out,” she said.

“If too many people turn up then we will just have to turn them away, but things are more online so people will check to see if tickets are available.”

Mr Demarco said he had been inspired to bring the group to the Edinburgh Festival after being “very impressed” with the 
St Andrews performance.

He said: “I was so impressed by them that I decided I should host them at the Festival.”

Describing his reasons for choosing Inchcolm as a venue, he said: “If you read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, you discover he makes reference to the island of Inchcolm. So it’s perfect for showing the genius of 
Shakespeare.”

news_en@edinburghnews.com