Macbeth @ the Crypt ★★★★

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By George Ruskin, first year French and German

'Toil and trouble has gone into creating an atmosphere of visceral Shakespearian intrigue' - Troubadour Stageworks' refresh Macbeth with an organ recital, an atmospheric crypt and UV paint.

Polished rather than reimagined, Troubadour Stageworks' production of Macbeth is a stonking great Shakespearian romp. There is increasing pressure to wrench Shakespeare’s works into ever more paradoxical settings, and the stigma surrounding staging Shakespearian plays traditionally can often be highly reductive. Thankfully, Mingma Hughes resisted the National Theatre-esque urge to set Macbeth’s Machiavellian demise in late-1980s Vladivostok. Instead, the atmospheric ecclesiastical split-setting of the nave and crypt of St John on the Wall provided the perfect backdrop to the ferocious world of Fifian factional in-fighting.

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Troubadour Stageworks / Laura Travis

Seated in our pews, we are treated to a macabre organ recital - one of the many wonderfully irreverent horror-film pastiches – before the play opens in cacophonous, post-iconoclastic surroundings with the eerie cackles of the witches (Katherine Malone, Jasmine Silk and Lily Bowler-Kail), their sinister painted faces only just visible beneath their hoods in the crepuscular church. Immediately afterwards we are ordered out of the church in a procession-like descent into the crypt, our own initiation to the witches’ cult.

It is here where the spectral tragedy begins to unfold: a fledgling Macbeth (Joe Davidson) receives the witches’ prophecy that he is destined for kingship, and before our eyes, in the most intimate of settings, becomes ever more consumed by malevolence and fortune. At the heart lies Macbeth’s mercurial marriage to Lady Macbeth (Sophy Taylor), and their chemistry is carnal, capriciously metamorphosing from to venereal passion to wrathful resentment in a matter of lines, and this raw emotion at point blank range leaves the audience reeling.

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Troubadour Stageworks / Laura Travis

Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter rolls naturally off each character’s tongue, soliloquies are heartily recited, and lines are engagingly annunciated whilst avoiding the accentual hyperbole that dogs many a Shakespearian adaptation. Touches like these, and the use of UV paint to represent Duncan’s (Tiarnán McCartney) phantom form, reverently refresh the Bard’s work without straying into absurdity.

The leitmotif of distinctly Scottish rage is well personified by the cast: MacDuff’s (Jamie Saul) explosive breakdown at the news of Macbeth’s murder of his family is a palpable catharsis, spurring him on to the convincingly choreographed final sword fight where he reaps his bloody revenge and revels in Macbeth’s severed head – one man of blood is swiftly usurped. As the bodies begin to pile up in the final scene, the atmosphere in the crypt becomes more fractured, and a brinkmanship develops, Lady Macbeth changes from conniving begowned noblewoman to valiant leather-clad warrior – a fitting portrayal of her fifth-act turning point.

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Troubadour Stageworks / Laura Travis

The sustained callousness of the ever-present witches is a constant reminder that we are watching their maudlin plan unfold, they emerge sporadically emerge in the plot to remind us of their omnipotence. Not once do they stray into pantomime with their crescendoing curses, and their performance of ‘Double, Double Toil and Trouble’ is powerfully rebarbative as they shrewdly use volume versatility to refresh the lines that can often stray into a hackneyed, ugly-stepsister farce.

Toil and trouble has gone into creating an atmosphere of visceral Shakespearian intrigue and its direction and setting are a Macbethian paradigm. Each character contributes to the atmosphere of paranoia which portrays the poisoned chalice of kingship, and the blood-splattered demise of megalomaniac protagonists.

Troubadour Stageworks' Macbeth runs 21-23rd March at the Crypt at St John.

★★★★

(Featured image credits: Facebook / Troubadour Stageworks)


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