Ian Lendler and Zack Giallongo’s all-ages graphic novel with a lengthy name, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth, is an utterly captivating, child-friendly introduction to one of Shakespeare’s better-known tragedies. It takes a few liberties with the plot and doesn’t attempt to replicate the Bard’s exact words, but the heart of the story gets through to both readers and the highly critical animal audience!
When the zoo keepers leave for the night, the animals escape their cages for nights of fun and frolicking. Tonight features prominent residents in the Midnight Revue’s interpretation of Macbeth. There’s a lion as the titular character, a leopard as Lady Macbeth, a hyena as Macbeth’s sidekick, and a stork as Macduff, along with smaller critters in other key roles. It’s a decidedly modern twist on a classic play, and it guarantees laughter and spectacles for all.
I’m a Shakespeare purist at heart, but I’d be the first to admit that Macbeth in its primary form isn’t very accessible to anyone younger than their mid-teens. Lendler’s deft reworking of the plot is recognizable to adults familiar with the original but also accessible and understandable to younger readers. (The recommended age is seven and up.) For example, the lion version of Macbeth doesn’t murder his enemies or his king; he merely eats them with a hearty helping of ketchup to make them go down smoothly. The bestial cast isn’t the most fun part of the story; however, the audience members add plenty of color to the production, and I suspect that the creators drew from Shakespearian-era theater crowds for some of the rowdiness. I especially like the hawkers working the crowd with wonderfully disgusting refreshments.
Giallongo’s cartoony artwork is perfect for the outrageously funny Macbeth interpretation, and there are little visual gags and signs that will tickle adult funny bones. (Check the one by the witches’ cauldron and the book Macbeth reads in bed.) Some characters may look reminiscent of Disney, but why wouldn’t they? They’re just as oddball and screwy as their big-screen counterparts!
If you love cartoons like Rocky and Bullwinkle that are irreverently tongue in cheek and appeal to both adults and kids, The Stratford Zoo series is definitely for you! I adored every moment of it and even shared bits with my non-comic inclined father, who found it hilarious. It’s also a great way to introduce younger readers to Shakespeare before they decide that the Bard is dry, boring, and only for old folks.
5 Discussions of How to Properly Cackle out of 5