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Theatre Review: The Macbeths ***

Joy Watters reviews 'a fascinating' reinterpretation of Shakespeare's classic.

Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre now tours its intense pared-back version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, first seen a year ago. Created by director Dominic Hill and dramaturg Frances Poet, it puts Lord and Lady Macbeth under the microscope, dissecting their relationship and motives as they pursue their murderous purpose. It is unrelenting in its examination of the couple, which takes place in the absence of any other characters.

Cut back to a seventy-minute running time, there is some time-shifting from the original, as it chronicles the bloody destruction of the Macbeths’ marriage in their pursuit of power.

The stage is reconfigured to create a small studio, centre stage is the marital bed in disarray, a reflection of the protagonists’ lives. Connubial bliss is vanquished in this chamber, trampled underfoot by overweening ambition.

Charlene Boyd reprises Lady Macbeth, a modern, increasingly unstable young woman, painting her face for courage. Lucianne McEvoy is Macbeth, and the casting of a woman in the role gives an opportunity to hear the familiar lines anew. McEvoy brings a fine maturity to the role, as conscience and ambition, guilt and longing, fight it out.

The lighting and sound design (Stuart Jenkins and Tom Penny) have major roles to play. The initially smoky dark chamber is then filled by harsh strip lighting, creating an interrogation cell where the couple question each other and voice their internal doubts. Penny’s soundscape is disturbing with the sounds of the Macbeths’ victims punctuating the action.

This version is a new way of examining Macbeth by putting the audience in an anatomical theatre to watch the psychological dissection of the couple alone. While it does not have the richness of the original work, it is a fascinating approach.

The Macbeths tours to Byre Theatre, St Andrews (9,10,11 Oct), Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling (12 Oct), Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (16,17,18,20 Oct), Eden Court (23 Oct), Pitlochry Festival Theatre (25 Oct), and Beacon Arts Centre (27 Oct).

Tags: theatre

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