REVIEW: MACBETH (Wimbledon Studio Theatre)

thumbnail_IMG_5034There are many ways in which to portray the character of Macbeth. Do we want the audience to sympathise, hate or pity? Whose side should they choose and how should they feel when they leave the theatre?

Arrows and Traps are renowned for telling famous stories in different ways, shocking and surprising the audience with a new interpretation. Macbeth, adapted by Artistic Director Ross McGregor, is no different. As the audience arrive, the scene is already set with a man wrapped in a bloody sheet, moaning and breathing heavily – a sure sign of things to come. And this is not a production for for the faint hearted.

The story is told quickly and visually, with scenes overlapping and at an excellent pace. While Macbeth is one of the shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, snappy production is always an excellent idea as it enables the audience to focus more on the language and key messages within the text.

Adapting the piece to incorporate more women was a stroke of genius, as while the witches are fantastic roles for women (and the ladies in this production play them to perfection), switching gender almost changes the story. Banquo (Becky Black) becomes a deeply loyal and maternal character, bringing a new perspective to the role and making her death and ghostly appearance more shocking.

Casting Jean Apps as Duncan also shows Macbeth in a more evil light, considering the brutal nature of her death. It also makes the demise of Lady Macbeth (Cornelia Baumann) almost worse, because she knows that her husband will stop at nothing, killing women and children to fulfil his destiny.

David Paisley in the title role grasps Macbeth firmly by the dagger, playing him as a strong overly ambitious character. Yet despite his arrogant and brutal nature, there are moments of such love and tenderness with his wife that the audience are denied the chance to truly hate him.

Although the crux of Act II seems a little rushed, the finale is superb. Visually, the piece is fantastic, with plenty of blood, ghostly apparitions, smoke and well-choreographed fighting by Alex Payne. It’s both surreal and mesmerising, with the singing and dancing adding to the bizarre, yet magical performance.

Arrows and Traps have created a production that makes Macbeth more accessible to those who are perhaps wary of Shakespeare, without losing any of the text’s impact or shock factor, and providing new ideas for seasoned Shakespeare lovers to consider.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Davor Tovarlaza at the Ocular Creative