Edinburgh 'Macbeth' based on Wests' saga

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The Independent Online
IT WAS hard to imagine a more murderous couple than Shakespeare's Macbeth and his bloodthirsty wife until Fred and Rose West came along.

Now, the four have came together on stage in an adaptation of the Bard's tragedy set around the lives of Gloucester's serial killers. Macbeth - The Director's Cut, developed for the Edinburgh Fringe which begins on 8 August, opened this week at the Purcell Rooms on London's South Bank and stars Peter Davies and Fern Smith.

The production, which aims to throw light on the West killings, sticks with the original text and storyline of how a Scottish general, Macbeth, learns of a prophesy that he shall be king. Egged on by his wife, Macbeth embarks on an orgy of killing and is stopped only when he is slain in hand-to-hand combat by Macduff.

This production, however, highlights the West connection by dwelling on the murders of Macduff's wife and children.

When Macbeth laments: "I am in blood/ Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,/ Returning were as tedious as go o'er", he is meant to demonstrate how far Fred West descended.

Lady Macbeth is meant to resemble Rose West, who murdered her own daughter and stepdaughter. Lady Macbethurges on her husband: "I have given suck, and I know/ How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:/ I would, while it was smiling in my face,/ Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums,/ And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you/ Have done to this."

There are, of course, differences in the plot. It is Lady Macbeth who dies babbling about her guilt, whereas it was Fred West who killed himself and his wife who survived.

However the set, stripped of its historical and regal context, is designed to look like the Wests' home at 25 Cromwell St, which was demolished in 1996, after Fred West committed suicide on New Year's Day 1995. His wife was convicted later that year of the murder of 10 young women and children, and is serving life sentences in Durham prison.