While the rest of Britain slowly but surely thaws into spring, in a tiny theatre in Penge, the winds of winter continue to swirl with outraged vehemence. Squirrelled away in the Bridgehouse Theatre, the ‘Scottish Play’ is given new life by a notably young cast. Minimalist and understated, this production pulls away special effects and distracting costumes to reveal six very talented actors deftly manoeuvring through one of Shakespeare’s darkest and most iconic tragedies.
In the vast wilderness of Scotland’s moors, war hero and Thane of Glamis Macbeth encounters three witches who foretell his future. Promised that he will steadily rise through the ranks of Scottish nobility until one day becoming King of Scotland, Macbeth returns home to his wife to inform her of the wondrous news. As fortune would have it, the current King of Scotland is due to arrive in Inverness to stay with Macbeth who, with his wife, plots to kill the monarch in an effort to hasten Fate’s design. However, it soon becomes clear that, in order to achieve their social and political aspirations, the pair must sacrifice friendship and happiness. Upon reaching the top, they quickly realise that there is only one possible direction in which they can go from there.
Performed in the round, this reimagining of such a notoriously grandiose play exposes its actors, leaving them nothing to hide behind. Thankfully, this young cast displays a mature appreciation for the text that is delivered with strong classical technique, drawing the audience into the drama. Top of the bill is Craig Daniel Adams, whose handling of the endlessly complex and vacillating Macbeth is quite remarkable. At times strong but somewhat childish and vulnerable, Adams cleverly infuses the play with a sense of uncertainty. Anabel Kutay, who expertly multiroles her way through a handful of characters, demonstrates a clear comprehension of Shakespeare’s beautiful use of language. This, mixed with a steady gaze that becomes quite unnerving, excellently drives the plot forward, steadily unravelling the story. The legendary Lady Macbeth is expertly brought to life by Thea Beyleveld. She combines rather charming feminine wiles with a soft but calculating mind and the struggle to contain her dark secret is almost palpable.
Macbeth is sensibly handled by its cast whose talent is of a refreshingly high standard. The simplicity of the whole production is carried through to the performances which appear honest and without pretense. Guy Retallack’s wild direction has the cast spinning about the small space with admirable ferocity, creating a whirlwind of emotion that hauls the audience from their seats and allows them to experience the tragedy first hand. A fresh and invigorating reinvention of the classic.
Macbeth is adapted and directed by Guy Retallack
Playing at the Bridgehouse Theatre until 19 April 2014. Click here for tickets
Reviewed by Alex Foott
Watch my interview with artistic director of the Bridgehouse Theatre and west end leading lady, Rachel Tucker