Putting on a Shakespearean production is no easy task, least of all Macbeth, which is one of his greatest and most well-known tragedies. Despite this, director Ed Wiseman-Eggleton was up for the challenge, creating an innovative adaptation that kept the audience gripped from start to finish. With themes of murder, madness, love and kingship, the play is provocative even for a modern audience.
Macbeth tells the tale of a respected Scottish Thane, who after hearing the witches’ prophecy that he will become King, becomes consumed by his desire for power. His quest for domination quickly descends into a bloodbath, provoking his enemies to plot against him and take revenge. I anticipate that there would have been few audience members present who were unfamiliar with the plot, however this did not deter from the suspense built in the performance.
Firstly, Nat Henderson did an excellent job with the costume, hair and makeup designs, particularly considering it was a large cast. There was an impressive attention to detail with the costumes, including the use of henna to represent tribal tattoos. The witches were positively terrifying, with bits of clay stuck to their faces and draped in rags. As well as their appearance, the characterisation and physicality of the witches was a stand-out feature in my opinion. The omnipresence of the witches and their manipulation of Macbeth’s character was a brilliant interpretation of the original play. The choice of having a male witch was also an interesting one that worked well.
“Porter’s performance in the lead role was striking and highly convincing throughout”
The standard of the acting was very high amongst all cast members, in particular the chemistry between Dave Porter and Leonora Hamilton-Shield, playing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, should be commended. The characters’ intimate relationship in the first half of the play juxtaposed the breakdown in the second half, once their guilt had driven them both to insanity. Overall, Porter’s performance in the lead role was striking and highly convincing throughout.
“The production team tackled some difficult scenes with ease, making efficient use of the space”
Perhaps one of the most famous soliloquies of the whole play is Macbeth’s in Act 2, where he ponders ‘is this a dagger which I see before me?’. This scene was done very cleverly indeed, with an orange spotlight depicting Macbeth’s vision of blood on his hand. The production team tackled some difficult scenes with ease, making efficient use of the space. For example, they used freeze framing to demonstrate the use of asides to the audience, as well as slow motion fight scenes at the beginning and end.
Alongside this, the audience interaction in the second half of the performance was highly effective, with a drunken Macbeth climbing onto spectators on the front row in the feast scene, as well as the witches eerily approaching the audience from behind. I thought the choice of portraying Banquo’s ghost physically onstage was the correct one, demonstrating Macbeth’s mental deterioration visually.
I found the lighting used slightly jarring and disconcerting at times, with frequent rapid changes. However, this did add to the intensity of the performance and helped to focus the audience’s attention on different aspects. Although the team managed to cut down the play considerably to emphasise the central plotline and action, the performance was very long and the second half seemed to drag a little.
“Without giving too many spoilers away, I absolutely loved the ending”
Despite these few criticisms, the many murder scenes were executed perfectly, with the witches spreading blood on Macbeth’s victims and luring them towards death like ominous puppet masters. Without giving too many spoilers away, I absolutely loved the ending. All the characters’ corpses were displayed on stage as one final gloomy reminder of the destruction that had ensued.
NNT’s Macbeth was striking, intricate and stunning. With so many adaptations to be compared with, the team have created a memorable and highly entertaining performance that stayed faithful to the text, whilst also being inventive at the same time. The cast and crew should be incredibly proud of this production, rounding off a wonderful in-house season for this year.
All images courtesy of Nottingham New Theatre Official Facebook Page.