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Review: Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Macbeth

The Stratford Zoo is like any other zoo…until closing time! That’s when the animals come out of their cages to perform Shakespeare’s greatest works. They might not be the best actors, but they’ve got heart. (Also fangs, feathers, scales, and tails.)

Review: Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Macbeth
Written by Ian Lendler; Art by Zack Giallongo
All ages
First Second, September 2014. ISBN: 978-1596439153
80 pgs., $12.99USD

Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue is a kid-friendly retelling of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. All of the animals in the zoo leave their enclosures, with some performing the play while the rest watch. The story does not focus solely on the play itself, as the audience makes quips and comments throughout the performance.

Macbeth is played by a lion whose hunger for food changes to one for power. With much nagging from his wife, Macbeth gives in and eats the king. Soon he is caught in a cycle of eating his enemies, while his wife goes crazy trying to wash away the spots from all the ketchup her husband uses to scarf down his victims. Try as he might to hide evidence of his crimes, Macbeth is no match for Detective McDuff, who learns the truth and confronts him.

Even though Macbeth is a tragedy, Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue retells it with a lot of fun and laughs. The dialogue is far from the original, though it does include the most famous lines, and it gets the point of the story across perfectly. Macbeth’s appetite for power is whetted by the witches and stoked by his wife. After the deed is done, both are plagued by the guilt of their crimes; Macbeth by his stomach, and Lady Macbeth by the spot on her hand. The story is kept light by the animals’ goofy performances. One of the witches can’t cackle and instead laughs like Santa or a mad scientist. Scenes are shortened to keep the audience happy.

The audience is just as entertaining as the performance. Throughout the play, the scenes cut between the action onstage and the audiences’ reaction. We see reactions from some young monkeys complaining that it’s either going to be about fighting or kissing, alligators reminiscing about the scene in the swamp, and vultures piling on the puns in one soapy scene. The scene where the king is killed, billed as the best scene in the play, is blocked by an elephant searching for a seat.

Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth is a fun and entertaining way to introduce Shakespeare to kids. Filled with lots of humor and charming characters, it is enjoyable to anyone. Giallongo’s art is bright and colorful, and the characters are delightful in their parts. First Second has found a great adaptation here, which I hope is just the beginning of a wonderful series.

Review copy provided by publisher.

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Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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