Review: Ross A Scottish Play, Belper Players

It’s a brave writer who attempts to tweak a Shakespeare play, but Jeff Moule clearly wasn’t daunted by such a challenge and the result of his labours – Ross A Scottish Play – was premiered by the Belper Players last night.

Ross, a minor character in The Bard’s Macbeth, is responsible for delivering messages to the major characters, which means is he is on the spot during  many of the play’s significant events. But what might have been going on behind the scenes?

Moule, presumably fascinated by that question, set out to devise a plot that would weave in and out of Shakespeare’s tale, but would be seen from a new perspective – with Ross as the protagonist.

He has also brought Lady Macbeth to the fore with a new interpretation of what she may have been plotting, with her ambitious lover the Viking Thane of Ross, played by James Strath. 

Shakespeare’s guilty madwoman was transformed into a more politically intelligent, feisty woman, who planned to reclaim the throne for the Viking Picts and Brianna Undy gave an extremely polished performance in the role. 

It was Moule’s version of the witches that made this drama for me though. 

I have seen The Scottish Play many a time in various different guises, but I can truly say that these were the most authentic and convincing witches I have ever encountered. 

They were cast as an underclass to which we can  so relate  today – socially abandoned human scavengers dealing in drugs and stolen goods. The characters created by Jane Wilton, Janet Allison, Tracey Wilkinson and Mollie Middleton were superb. Both terrifyingly devilish and amusing, but somehow strangely upsetting.

If you are looking for an amateur dramatic group to stage an ambitious new play then the Belper Players must come high up on the list. They rarely fail to deliver.

This is the fifth time that Moule has worked with the team and they clearly have a great rapport. Under his direction they worked hard with his impressive, but challenging script and the restraints of the stage space at  Strutt Centre in Belper.

The witches aside, I particularly enjoyed a scene during which the downstairs staff gossiped about the banquet where Macbeth saw the ghost of Banquo and I thought the battle scenes were also very cleverly co-ordinated.

Whether or not you are a Shakespeare fan this interesting play is definitely worth seeing.

The rest of the cast were Terry Stevenson, Nick Mothershaw, Henry Stubbs, George Comber, Matthew Mellers, Freddy Levesley, Sarah Holme, Martin Drake, Roger Whiting, Michael Fletcher, Jeremy Crane and John Briscoe.

The music was by Susan Stevenson and the live bagpipe playing by Mark Webster. The set design was by Terry Stevenson and the company and the lighting and sound was by Jamie Vella.

You can see the play until Saturday at 7.30pm at the Strutt Centre, Belper. For tickets go http://www.belperplayers.com or telephone 07544 374088