Guest Writer: Neil McKeown
On a first visit to the Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot, we were treated to a very clever interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Firstly, a mention for the venue itself, an incredible and very intimate theatre that if you have not visited yet, put some time aside to as The Globe replica ensures you are in for a treat.
This was a modern interpretation of the classic tragedy, well-known and popular yet never feeling tired or uninteresting. The English Touring Theatre (ETT) delivered what felt like a unique presentation, using modern technology to build an atmosphere that kept you not only interested but on the edge of your seat with its eeriness. There was a landscape of grief and uncertainty, a complex portrait of a fragile mind, plus a cleverly directed script of violence, revenge, and a chilling power struggle. What is there not to love about this play?
The descent into madness of both Macbeth (Mike Noble) and Lady Macbeth (Laura Elsworthy) was delivered and portrayed in such a way that it was genuinely believable and heart-wrenching. With a supporting cast that fully encapsulated the numerous characters they played and worked around each other’s stage space in a way, which revealed a cast who clearly have spent much time perfecting the nuances of their characters. A special mention is worthy of Leo Wan (Ross), who had several solo appearances on stage and each time fully commanded both the stage and the audience’s attention.
The banquet scene in which Macbeth begins to see the ghost of Duncan was an absolute treat and exceptionally clever! I will not spoil the surprise but it had me looking twice to make sure I was seeing what was actually in front of me. Tremendous artistry!
As with any modern interpretation, creative boundaries are stretched. It is expected. However, there were one or two elements of the play that left the full-to-capacity audience unsure that the mark was hit. These were so minor that it did not detract from The Bard’s narrative and it would be ‘nitpicking’ to make any real mention of them. ETT’s Macbeth was a visceral, claustrophobic, and intoxicating show, which speaks to a world we find ourselves living in now, as we watch those who hold the highest responsibilities in our society brazenly use deceit and misinformation in their quest for power.
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and one I already have and will continue to recommend to others before the run finishes. It perfectly captures what a small niche assembly of actors; a backstage team with incredible imagination and willingness to try something different can achieve.
Overall Rating: 4****