The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Plenty of media have explored the burning whimsical childhood question "What do the toys/museum exhibits do at night when no one is around?". The lesser known (and currently out of print) holiday gem The Christmas Toy is a personal favorite, but more commonly Toy Story and Night at the Museum spring to mind. What do zoo animals do though, when no one is around to keep them? For the erudite collection of creatures at the Stratford Zoo, arranging and performing the words of Williams Shakespeare seems like a no brainer (Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon).
Of course this isn't simply a straight transcription of the Bard's classic Scottish play, Macbeth (how could it be when the quirky personalities of various big game creatures are thrown into the mix?). Instead this is a fourth wall shattering tale of asides, adapted with children and young adults in mind. Shakespeare's amazing work can be exceptionally rough for that crowd, and so here writer Ian Lendler and artist Zack Giallongo do a superb job adapting the play for a younger audience. They retain the core structure and ideas, while infusing humorous asides from the animal audience. Even the story itself riffs with the concepts of how animals would handle this scenario- Macbeth, played by a lion, is eating his enemies, rather than killing them (with his accompanying ketchup filling in for blood). This book is clever, fun, and very well paced. This is absolutely the way to introduce kids to these Shakespeare.
Giallongo's artwork eschews the deep blacks of solid lines for a thinner edge, granting the images a sketchbook aesthetic which is beautiful to pour over. The overall style enhances the whimsical nature of the silly situation these animals place themselves in; it's almost dreamlike. The colors by Alisa Harris are bold as needed, and rich when applicable. The contrast is excellent, and many of the images pop off the page.
The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth comes out September 30 from First Second Books as a trade paperback graphic novel for $12.99. While the fun and silly nature may not be serious enough for some comic fans, this flight of Shakespearian fantasy is the perfect way to instill a love of the Bard in children (and the artwork is killer to look upon).
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, the look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.
Mania Grade: B
Written By: Ian Lendler
Artist: Zack Giallongo
Publisher: First Second Books
Book Genre: Graphic Novel
Format: Trade Paperback, 80 pages