REVIEW: Macbeth (St Paul’s Actors Church) ★★★★★

Blood, betrayal and black magic. There are so many versions of Shakespeare‘s ‘Scottish play’ that you’d expect them all to blend into one another. However, the vast number of themes in Macbeth enables directors to have a plethora of possibilities and productions.

Opening with a skirmish and the apparitions of three other worldly creatures, Iris Theatre take us on a journey across Scotland. We follow them in their bloody footsteps, aghast at what we see and hear. For this is a brutal retelling. No glamour, just guts, ghosts and gashes.

David Hywel Baynes returns to take on the leading role, embracing the character of Macbeth heart and soul, as we see this young and ambitious soldier morph into a crazed tyrant, murdering everyone who stands in his way. He is bewitching and genuinely terrifying. In fact there are serval scenes which are horrifying, particularly the vicious murder of Macduff’s baby, which will not be easily forgotten.

Mogali Masuku takes on the role of Lady Macbeth and we see her too fall into the path of evil as she convinces her husband that he must kill the king to fulfil the witches’ prophecy. Nick Howard-Brown is convincing in an unusually serious role, covered in blood as he menacingly terrifies Macbeth (and the audience), while, Matt Stubb as Macduff is the only character to invite a small amount of empathy from the audience when he finds out his entire family have been butchered on Macbeth’s orders.

Alice Channon‘s set design is fantastic, especially the witches’ scene complete with bubbling, smoking cauldron and a very creepy and clever method of foretelling Macbeth’s downfall. Roger Bartlett‘s fight scenes are as realistic as ever and there is no shortage of fake blood spurting and flying onto unsuspecting audience members.

Iris Theatre never fail to amaze me with their new interpretations of classic stories. The originality and sheer brutality of this adaptation, make it perhaps the best production of Macbeth that I have ever seen.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Nick Rutter

Macbeth plays at St Paul’s Actors Church until 29 July 2017