Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow . . . Jimmy!

Elsie and Norm’s Macbeth

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


It certainly helps to know the plot of the bard’s Scottish play if you are to keep up with the madcap version presented here in Elsie and Norm's living room.

John Christopher Woods retelling of this murderous story is carved to an almost charade like version and borrows from just about every comedic format from Morecambe and Wise to Monty Python.

Wood is something of an elusive writer and very little can be found about him online but one thing that is known is his success at the fringe festivals and this play certainly has the atmosphere of an Edinburgh fringe review.

Elsie and Norm, played here by Louise Fulwell and Tom Rees, are your average suburban couple if there is such a thing these days. They have grown tired of playing Trivial Pursuit and so have decided to liven their humdrum lives with a bite sized parlour version of Macbeth.

However, this is not the original which is deemed by them to be too long winded, have far too many characters in it and some badly written jokes. Instead the couple’s new version is minus the long-winded prose and with themselves playing the entire cast. To help the home grown performance they have also enlisted the help of some stuffed toy animals and a blow up doll.


 Elsie, Louise Fulwell and Norm, Tom Rees plot the tragic end of Banquo . . . the panda  . . .

Ever since its appearance in 2000 the play has been staged with mixed reception. It’s certainly a challenge as a two hander and in the intimate setting of the studio theatre there is nowhere to hide if the laughs don’t come. Fortunately Fulwell and Rees were on top form and powered their way through this crazy play with skill and energetic abandon.

Louise Fulwell handled mostly the female characters from Lady Macbeth to the singular witch and also managed to give us a song and dance routine with some deliberately badly performed tap dancing that was extremely funny. Perhaps the funniest moment in the play is the introduction of a male sex doll as one of the characters that seemed to have a life of its own.

Perfectly matched to her was her opposite number, the very experienced Tom Rees as Norm. The couple used a range of homemade costumes and props to great effect and although there is little respect for Shakespeare’s play in this version they were moments of the original that serve to balance the frivolity.

The chemistry and timing between the actors was impeccable and whilst it is clearly silly in every sense, it remained an entertaining performance due entirely to the casts ability and skill.

For the Shakespearean purists, Elsie and Norm are probably committing an act of sacrilege to parody the play in this way, but the truth is that this might have been the very send up Shakespeare might have got from his mates, in some drunken bawdy inn back in Elizabethan times. 

Perhaps though, this light hearted, distilled version might just be the catalyst for anyone reluctant to enter the bard’s world to encourage them to seek out the original.

They would be in for a shock though if they expected to see some of the characters acted out in Elsie and Norm fashion . . . such as Banquo played by a stuffed panda.

It’s a lot of fun, and it’s Shakespeare Jim, but not as we know it. To 13-04-19

Jeff Grant


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