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by on 14 January 2023

Mean, Menacing, Murderous


by William Shakespeare, adapted by Lucy Morrell

Rose Participate and Oldenburg State Theatre at The Rose Theatre, Kingston until 15th January

Review by Gill Martin

The stage is set, dark and dangerous, mean and menacing.  The cast is ready, raw and ragged, with robotic, jerky movements contorting their bodies.

This gritty version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth spares nothing.  Big sound, flashing lights, screeching voices bring to life this tale of murderous treason and tyranny, tragedy and treachery at a dizzying pace.  A non-stop ninety minutes of intense action of the Scottish play zip past as blood is spilt in battle and in a quest to seize power.

Six young actors of Rose Participate take on fourteen roles in a co-production with the state theatre of Oldenburg, Kingston’s twin town, first performed in Germany last May and now revived, in this production directed by Josh Mathieson and Lucy Morrell.

Designer Takaya Kobayashi, a Japanese scenographer working in Oldenburg, crafted a set to suit both theatre spaces.  The matte textured backdrop lends a post-Apocalyptic vibe.  His costumes too: studded leather, ripped denim, fake animal pelts, camouflage fatigues, wild wigs for the three witches whose incantations around the seething cauldron never fail to disturb. ‘Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble,’ they intone, writhing as they stir in morsels you won’t get on any cookery show.  Fillet of a fenny snake, eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing …  My particular macabre favourite: finger of birth-strangled baby, ditch-delivered by a drab.  (It’s a recipe, learned for a school play as Third Witch, I recited at 3 am at Goa Airport to silence a group of wide-eyed children awaiting a flight).  Joshua Fernanades (who also plays Malcolm), Jack Bartlett (who also plays Duncan and Macduff) and Alessandra Carli (who also plays Ross and a drunken porter) give it their spellbinding all.

Jacob Towey owns the stage in the title role.  His eight plus years with the Rose Youth Theatre have given him assurance and deserved confidence.  Macbeth is haunted by the bloody ghost of Banquo (Cathra Plant) who also plays Lady Macduff.  His demented rantings are matched by Amy Lawrence’s Lady Macbeth.  She is tormented by nightmares as she sleepwalks Dunsinane fortress, trying in vain to cleanse her hands of blood.  ‘Out damn spot! Out, I say,’ she wails before guilt drives her to suicide.

The most graphic of the blood-thirsty butchery and violence, her hanging, assassinations, stabbings, Macbeth’s beheading ­ are either off-stage or semi-shielded from the audience, but still impactful.

This youthful production of Macbeth packs a powerful punch.

Gill Martin, January 2023

Photography by Stephan Walzl 

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