Norm and Elsie behind their container grown cast walls with, presumably, Great Birnam Wood behind

Elsie and Norm’s Macbeth

Worcester Rep


How refreshing to be back in a live audience for a live performance of a theatrical production! After months of deprivation, a pleasant evening in the Commandery Gardens was most welcome.

The title says it all: Elsie and Norm’s Macbeth – the names tell you that Shakespeare’s darkest of tragedies has been transformed into a light-hearted and frivolous piece of modern entertainment and after the misery of the last year’s lockdowns, a little levity and a few good laughs is appreciated.

Elsie and Norm are fed up with uninspiring television fare and repetitive board games – it is time, they decide, for some real culture. Where else could they turn but to William Shakespeare, the greatest of all!

Theirs however is not high-brow intellectual culture, they look to improve on the bard by simplifying the erudite language and verse to bring the story, some of it, into the modern vernacular.


Ian Parkin  as Macbeth, Duncan, Banquo, Malcom, Donalbain, Macduff  etc - oh and also as Norm

Norm determines to intersperse a few famous speeches with ‘snappier and more punchy’ dialogue, slimming the cast down to just two actors, who cover most of the key roles with quick changes of costume.

Certainly it is a lot shorter, faster paced and comic rather than tragic. In a light-hearted way the play pokes fun at the bard in a teasing tone to appeal to a modern and younger audience.

The humour is largely created by the juxtaposition of Shakespeare’s original alongside the mundane, plain and direct language of modern Britain.

The result is a very light and entertaining show that is best appreciated if you know Shakespeare’s original tragedy. There are plenty of contemporary allusions – Nicola Sturgeon and modern Scotland’s independence movement for example. False teeth, holiday flatlets, the football results – plenty of anachronistic references intersperse the broad brush summary of the story of Macbeth, his ambition, his reluctance to murder, his guilt, delusions, paranoia, his wife’s unnatural evil followed by her conscience driven sleep walk.


Carrie Rawlings' Elsie as Ladys Macbeth and Macduff, witches and anyone else in a frock

All is hammed up to make light of the horrors of the original and poke fun at the bard in a teasing manner.

Under the severe restrictions of the lockdowns, a cast of two enables the company to get theatre up and running again.  Carrie Rawlings as Elsie and Ian Parkin as Norm do a great job of irreverently sending up our greatest playwright! They exhibit boundless energy, throw themselves into the multiple roles wholeheartedly with a variety of near-perfect accents, switching characters with the hasty changes of hats and props. Malcolm, depicted as a bit of a Billy Bunter character, still in school boy shorts, and Elsie’s Lady Macbeth, stood out.

This production runs through to 11th July in the Commandery Gardens. If you want a light evening of low-brow comedy, get along to support the local theatre. They deserve all the encouragement we can muster.

Tim Crow


Worcester Rep

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