The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Macbeth (First Second)

When the zookeeper’s away, the animals will put on a play in this funny, kid-friendly (but not dumbed down) take on the Bard’s classic tragedy.

 

 

 74 pgs., color; $12.99

(W: Ian Lendler; A: Zack Giallongo)

 
Paul Simon told us that “it’s all happening at the zoo” but even he might not have anticipated what the residents of the Stratford Zoo are up to after hours, when the keepers and tourists have gone home to bed. And what are they doing? Putting on full-scale performances of Shakespeare plays for their fellow residents, of course. The audience receives these performances more in the spirit of a baseball game, complete with hawkers offering animal-appropriate snacks like earthworms and rotting carrion and lots of backchatter (“Get to the good part!” “We want more witches!”) than the overly respectful, church-like reception common to some human audiences. The monkeys and rabbits and giraffes are there to have fun, in other words, just like the groundlings in Shakespeare’s day that laid down a penny each to see the show.
The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Macbeth is sort of a Silly Symphonies take on Shakespeare’s play. The key characters are there, as is much of the action and some of the most memorable lines, but it’s all been reimagined through a funhouse mirror, with an eye to delighting children (and I have to admit I found it pretty funny as well). The title role in Macbeth is taken by a tartan-clad lion who has a big appetite in the literal sense, while the ambitious Lady M. is played by a leopard, giving new meaning to the expression “Out, damned spot!” (changed to “dumb spot” in this version so as to not offend little ears).  The three weird sisters run a café (with free Wi-Fi) and squabble over the appropriate evil laugh, while Macduff is a fedora-wearing detective stork that of course was not of woman bore: he was delivered by a stork!
OK, I think you get the drift. The story has been edited to make it kid-appropriate, including the clever use of an elephant to block the audience’s view during some of the bloodier action, and the editing out of certain words you might not want a child repeating. There’s plenty of breaking the fourth wall and the ongoing theatrical chatter that will make the kids feel very in-the-know (“Oh no, I forgot my lines.” “We don’t have any lines, dummies, we’re extras.”)
Zack Giallongo’s art is both goofy and expressive, and Alisa Harris’ colors bring the pages to life while also helping to tell the story (clarifying which frames take place on stage and which in the audience, for instance). In fact, the art of The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Macbeth could be used as a springboard to discussion among parent and child of some aspects of graphic storytelling (including layout, point of view, and transitions) at the same time that it introduces Shakespeare in a very kid-friendly format. You can see a preview here. | Sarah Boslaugh

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