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Macbeth is arguably Shakespeare’s darkest and most powerful tragedy – a play so fraught with bad luck that its very name is a superstitious omen. Personally, Macbeth is my favourite Shakespeare play and I was keen to see LUTG’s fresh take on it.
I was already intrigued by the premise of the setting of an abandoned hospital in an ‘unspecified war-torn location’. This change is established from the very start – with the three witches meeting on a chaotic battlefield amidst bloodied soldiers who have just fought in a violent opening scene.
After this, the play continues much as expected albeit with a non-typical setting. This stylistic choice remains a mystery to me, however I thought the use of the hospital curtains to aid scene changes was very well done. The dramatic lighting at times of emotional upheaval such as in many of Macbeth’s soliloquies and whenever the witches were present was also very effective – the harsh reds and greens a great portrayal of emotions through pathetic fallacy. The one issue I had was some confusion at the music choices – Michael Jackson was a nice thought, but perhaps not entirely suited in this case.
In term of the lead performances, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were outstanding; particularly considering it was some of the actors’ first performances with LUTG. Macbeth was an incredible lead, with the King’s descent into madness expertly portrayed – the dagger scene was especially powerful. Macbeth’s leading lady did not fall short here either with the iconic ‘out damned spot’ scene perfectly capturing the mania of guilt that overcomes Lady Macbeth; crawling across the floor whilst crying out in despair at the deeds she and her husband have committed in their greed for power.
With such a large cast it would have been easy for minor characters to fade into the background, however, thankfully the cast never had to rely on only one or two actors propping up the scene. Although the whole cast held their own, some stand-out performances for me were Banquo, Macduff and the much-needed comic relief of the Porter in the knocking scene after Duncan’s death.
Although the play’s directors admit to diverting from the original play a fair bit, the dialogue largely remained untouched although there were a few added scenes and characters played slightly larger roles which I found quite exciting. A good example of this was the character of Seyton who acted as the Macbeths’ right-hand man; the only continuously loyal companion of the couple who, in one disturbingly drawn-out scene smothers Macduff’s baby in its crib. Seyton was portrayed expertly and his dynamic with the Macbeths was an interesting one to explore that ultimately really worked.
The only negative I could really find with the production was a little confusion at the end scene with the witches. Throughout the play, the witches dragged the bodies of murdered characters off-stage which was a wonderful use of stage presence. However, after the decisive battle the witches appear only to be confronted with an omniscient voice (presumably their master, Hecate, who traditionally appears earlier in the play) whilst they quake in fear before running off screaming. My friend and I discussed this scene after the show and she admitted that the voice reminded her of the one from the CBBC show Trapped (throwback) and I couldn’t get that idea out of my head. Disregarding this comparison, I still felt the play’s closing scene was unnecessary and would have been better if it was cut off straight after the battle or with the witches dragging Macbeth’s body off-stage. Despite this, overall the play was magnificent; a refreshing adaptation of a Shakespeare classic.