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Edinburgh Festival 99 Tuesday, 24 August, 1999, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Is this a Dannii I see before me?
By BBC News Online's festival correspondent, Matt Grant

Journey to Macbeth 99 (until 30 August)
Royal Botanic Garden

The title Journey to Macbeth suggests a new work based around the original text, but that is a false expectation.

Instead of a Shakespeare in Love, this is essentially a straight adaptation of the original text - albeit one trying as hard as it can to prove it is different.

Edinburgh Festival 1999
It helps a lot to know Macbeth itself. If you don't you certainly won't pick it up here. The performance explodes into life with a bang, but its dramatic rock interpretation of the witches scene skips their actual prophecies, so all later references to them must be more than a tad confusing for the untutored.

Bags of cocaine

And on it goes. The cast of dozens stampedes through key passages accompanied by trance, handguns, Afro wigs and bags of cocaine. Predictably, the result is invigorating but rather bewildering.

Ultimately, Journey to Macbeth takes an interesting idea and turns it into a spectacle. Set in Edinburgh's Royal Botanical Gardens with the castle and cityscape as a backdrop and featuring stiltwalkers and pyrotechnics, it has all the elements of a performance to remember, yet these feel as though they have not been sufficiently drawn into a unified whole.

Whether or not the audience knows its Shakespeare, what everyone knows is that the play stars Dannii Minogue and the performance is outside. They come wearing jumpers and fleeces to sit on the plastic sheets, but either the cold or the Australian soap opera star's acting had driven a handful away before the end.

Ploughing through the play

Dannii had claimed she took on the part because it offered her the chance to become more than just a celebrity in a Fringe production. But she fails to create a convincing Lady Macbeth.

For much of the performance, she swaggers and staggers around the grass stage acting like a low rent Jim Morrison. In her early key speeches when she persuades her husband to kill King Duncan she lacks true conviction as she ploughs through the lines without capturing their full force.

Her appearance helps bring visual stimulation to the play, but the quality of the sound system lets it down badly - it crackled and gave out repeatedly throughout the show.

Dannii had also said she only took the part because she got to do her own thing. The trouble is the rest of the cast have adopted the same approach, and the result is 20 different plays.

See also:

17 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
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