Macbeth

3
English Touring Theatre (ETT) production seen in Worthing,
By Kirstie - 12th Mar 2024

This is a contemporary adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most psychological dramas. The story is one of greed, ambition and ultimately a fall from power. The Macbeth’s become obsessed with obtaining the crown in a country which is divided and self destructing. This results in an ugly journey of manipulation, corruption and murder.

Many aspects of the play have been changed to incorporate modern elements. The most obvious of these is the absence of the witches. They never appear on the stage. Instead their prose is heard through different mediums and characters. The opening scenes take place in the Macbeth’s house and the witch’s words are heard through the television which Lady Macbeth is watching whilst anxiously waiting for her husband to return from battle. She is vaping which leaves us in no doubt that we are watching an up to date production. Throughout the play the actors add modern language into their dialogue. They also interact with the audience on occasion and during the dinner party scene some members were invited onto stage to sit at the table alongside them. Whilst this is entertaining for those watching it did not add to the piece.

The set is striking. Modern and stark with fashionable furniture and wooden, curved flats which also act as screens throughout the play. Different images are projected onto them and during the later scenes when Macbeth is struggling mentally the individuals he has wronged appear on them to haunt him. A clever example of this is during Banquo’s ghost scene when only Macbeth can see him at the table but we all see him in exactly the same setting on the walls. The excellent lighting and sound effects add to the dark mood of the play and the contrast during the party scenes which are filled with light and jovial music make us believe the Macbeth’s are living a lie. The use of French windows and clever lighting depicting an outside space beyond worked extremely well and made the arrival of a new day believable. Bagpipes being played live by a cast member was a definite highlight. The costumes are all suitable, military and uniform and the only glamour and colour come from Lady Macbeth’s sparkling evening dresses and silky nightwear.

This is a well cast production and the company work well together. The chemistry between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth is excellent and the physical acting very believable. His response to her manipulation in the early scenes was really well acted and a huge contrast to the tyrant he becomes at the end of the play. Two very confident performances. Lady Macbeth’s change from excited, giddy and goading at the beginning of the play through to her mental demise is a really well thought through performance by a talented actress. The long speeches in the later scenes were sometimes delivered a bit too quickly and therefore were not easy to hear and understand. Another confusing aspect was Duncan also playing a murderer and siward. Whilst playing multiple parts often works I felt it didn’t in this case due to the contrast of characters.

This is a fast paced production which moves along nicely. The fight scenes are well choreographed and believable. The death scenes are extremely well delivered. Particularly the murder of Lady Macduff and her child. They were drawn out and believable. Again the lighting and sound were well executed during these moments and enhanced the drama of the piece. There were some fun moments interjected which kept the audience wondering what was coming next. Ross’s cheeky interaction with the audience and Malcolm’s karaoke rendition of ‘Yes sir I can boogie’ received an applause.

A group of talented actors deliver this contemporary and unusual version of Macbeth. It may not be to everyone’s taste and Shakespeare traditionalists could find the changes uncomfortable. However, if you are open to an alternative take on a classic I would recommend going to see this interesting piece of theatre.

Kirstie Lilleystone


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