Goblin:Macbeth finds the laughs in one of Shakespeare’s iconic tragedies

Ever wondered what goblin foreplay looks like?

Goblin:Macbeth, now playing at Bard on the Beach, has answers — in between all the murder, of course.

The show is a twist on a Bard classic. Three goblins come across the complete works of William Shakespeare, and take over the stage to try to engage with humans through theatre.

They decide to put on Macbeth, a natural fit as the show already exists between our world and the supernatural. When the goblins recite “double, double toil and trouble” it sounds logical.

Sitting at 90 minutes with no intermission, the original text has been cut down. However, the goblins still touch on all of Macbeth’s major plot points and soliloquies, dropping in plenty of meta-humour for both the Shakespeare fans and the Shakespeare haters in the house.

To create the goblin illusion, the actors are in full prosthetics that are spooky enough for dramatic line reads, but goofy enough that the comedic elements work too. All three actors stay busy throughout the show flipping back and forth between playing Macbeth characters and the goblins themselves. One even creates a slick live score.

While you can find all the actors’ names in the program, you don’t know who’s playing who — or whether an understudy is on the night you see the show. In her program notes, director Rachel Northam wrote that this was a deliberate choice to eliminate any questions of ‘who’s playing X or Y’ in this production.

The goblins are anonymous and agender (by human standards at least — as I learned, goblins have evolved far beyond a gender binary), allowing me to forget there were humans on the stage at all and lean into the dramaturgy.

Seating around 200, the theatre was fairly intimate, but if you have trouble hearing I’d recommend sitting near the front — with no microphones, the goblins’ lines were occasionally muffled behind the prosthetics.

There’s also some audience participation in the production, but there’s no need to brace for second-hand embarrassment — the goblins were ready to build off of whatever was thrown at them.

Unsurprisingly, the audience at Goblin:Macbeth ran younger than I’ve seen at other Bard on the Beach productions. While the eight-ish year old near me probably didn’t catch all the iambic pentameter, they were extra entertained by getting to play along (and all the f-bombs).

I saw Bard on the Beach’s 2018 production of Macbeth, and while that production was played beautifully, if I had to choose between the two, I’d see Goblin again.

I can’t say the goblins helped me dig deeper into the text, but I much prefer finding the fun in a show that’s so dark and dramatic. The conceit of Macbeth’s climax is that someone who was born through a c-section is not “of woman born” — that’s so silly!

So if you’re looking for a way to dip your toes into the Bard’s work, or just meet some truly otherworldly creatures, Goblin:Macbeth is the show for you.