EFR - Reviews of Macbeth

Macbeth

Mon 8th – Sat 13th August 2016

reviews

Emma Taylor

at 10:40 on 13th Aug 2016

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Fortitude Dance Theatre’s ‘Macbeth’, set in 1980s Manchester, promised to be a fluorescent, ecstatic ‘Macbeth’. It was, however, slightly disappointing.

Despite the revamp, the bones of the classic ‘Macbeth’ remain. The cast know their way around the script and deliver it fairly convincingly. The acting itself is competent at most stages of the performance, yet in some scenes seems almost too relaxed for what is a dark tragedy. Particular gems in the cast, however, should be noted – Macbeth in particular is strong, despite him often facing the back of the stage which makes him difficult to hear, and Lady Macbeth’s first monologue is very impressive. This aside, the performance very much lacks the raw emotion needed in a Shakespearean tragedy, making it almost bland.

An interesting element of this performance is the dance, which gives the performance a certain uniqueness. Physical theatre can work incredibly well with Shakespeare. A trio of dancers – later revealed as the three witches – greet the audience as they file in, with a fluid, almost beautiful dance that had been choreographed to suit the swirling magic and madness of the witches. This kind of dance is present throughout, and it did work in that it is very cleverly added in to represent emotions, such as at the discovery of the murder. The problem here is that in certain cases the dancing goes on for far too long- less of an issue were the dancing not so seemingly repetitive. Considering so much of the script has been cut, better time management of the performance here should be exercised.

The whole crux of this performance is that it promises to be an loud 80s reboot of the Shakespearean classic, set in gritty Mancunian nightclubs- yet this promise is hardly delivered. Putting Banquo in dungarees and Lady Macbeth in legwarmers is not enough to give it an 80s shot in the arm, and neither is giving Macbeth a hockey stick to walk on with – the purpose of which remains a mystery still. The 80s music is confined to a dull, unrecognisable electric beat throughout the entire show, which lends nothing to scenes of high emotion.

Overall, it is a fairly competent, if slightly basic, performance of a shortened ‘Macbeth’. However, this is billed as so much more, a gritty tragedy in neon, and although it is colourful to a degree, it is not the fluorescence we were promised. Despite this, the show and cast have great potential. It is an interesting and ambitious idea, and this should be recognised and admired.

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Ed Grimble

at 19:46 on 13th Aug 2016

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Life, says Shakespeare’s tyrannical protagonist, is ‘a tale full of sound and fury’. Fortune Theatre’s decision to move the Scottish play to the thumping grime of Manchester, 1989, promises sweat and noise and furious postmodern industrial sensory overload. This reviewer was therefore disappointed that this was not what was delivered in ZOO’s Monkey House. Instead, the initial conceit deflates and what is left is instead a perfectly competent rendition of ‘Macbeth’, but one with the appearance of a dress rehearsal.

The play promises explosive energy and intense theatrical spectacle. However, the staging does not deliver this. The soundtrack is simply a dull thudding bass: relentless and unexciting. Likewise, the 1980s aesthetic is relegated to nothing more than some dungarees, eye glitter, and an inexplicable hockey stick. On occasion I find myself closing my eyes so as to avoid the distraction of the bucket hats and Hawaiian shirts, more Raul Duke than David Bowie.

However, once one overlooks the halfhearted aesthetic and focuses on the language of the play, what emerges is a young cast who have a real competency and knack for Shakespeare. Even the weaker members of the cast deliver their lines with relative clarity and aptitude. Indeed, their diction and delivery is better than some naturalistic plays by more experienced companies that I have watched in the past fortnight. Standout performances come from Molly Rolfe as Lady Macbeth and Joel Walker as Duncan and Macduff. Indeed, so commanding was the latter that I was disappointed when he met his bloody end at the hands of the regicidal machinations of the Macbeths. Relief, then, when Walker emerges as the vengeful Macduff. Rolfe handles the depth and complexity of Lady Macbeth, arguably one of the trickiest but richest female characters in the repertoire, with a natural ease. She is both sensual and sinister.

The company approach ‘Macbeth’ with an intriguing focus on dance and physicality. The ensemble routines, if a little long at points (especially when one considers that the script has been heavily edited, and so less dance would have equated to more text), are delivered with synchronicity and invention. They are particularly effective in giving the three witches a somewhat ethereal, otherworldly potency, as well as in representing each character’s successive discovery of Duncan’s bloody corpse; here the group dance grows as each character joins a swelling tableau of grief and shock.

This young cast are very promising, handling Shakespeare’s text with a competency that is beyond their years. It is just a shame that the conceit of their adaptation fails emphatically. With experince and a more solid artistic vision, Fortune Theatre have the potential to deliver a stellar show.

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