BWW Review: MACBETH, Wilton's Music Hall
The thing about ol' Shakey is that he can be quite difficult to follow. There's often a bit of cross-dressing, lots of mistaken identities and implausible disguises and that's before we get to the, you know, psychological insights that jostle with the pyrotechnic language that make you want to hit the pause button midway through a scene and assess exactly where we are.
But he wouldn't have lasted as long as he has - well, he wouldn't have lasted ten minutes at The Globe back in the day - if he couldn't write a bloody good yarn with thrills 'n' spills like a Jason Statham movie (well the Jason Statham movie that keeps getting remade).
It's nice to be reminded of Shakespeare's mass appeal, the fact delivered beautifully by the Mark Bruce Company's stunning Macbeth, the Scottish play done without words, but with stagecraft of the highest intelligence informing every scene. The main discourse is dance, but movement, lighting, acting, mime, props, even the venue itself, continually fold in and out of the storytelling, yielding clarity but also layering in complexity, as the bloody coup and its terrible aftermath plays out.
The old music hall can never have been lit more sympathetically, more frighteningly, more effectively in its 160 years, Guy Hoare balancing the darkness of night (and intention) with spaces illuminated just so for the dancers to dance, and to act. You won't read this line often from this reviewer, but it's worth the ticket price just to see the lighting. And, at a venue where it can be a problem, the acoustics for Arvo Pärt's dissonant but never intrusive music, works very well.
Given such a platform, Jonathan Goddard and Eleanor Duval electrify it, individually and as the pair demented by ambition's siren call. Duval's eyes glint as she sees her husband's royal prophecy curdling into murderous madness, Goddard with the mien of a gangster one moment and a lover the next. How he stares at the dagger she leaves for him, waves of psychosis washing through his mind, before he reaches his decision.
Pared back to the essential elements of the narrative, we get all the big setpiece scenes (though, unless you're very familiar with the plot, I'd advise a boning up on the main events via Wikipedia before taking your seat). In the best of the lot, Jordi Calpe Serrats is an astonishing Banquo, the best buddy transformed into a bleeding body, accusing, accusing and accusing Macbeth, somehow corporeal and supernatural at once, tipping the new king over the edge.
The witches, often a little camp, are here a screaming, sexy trio, Pan's People as imagined by Edgar Allen Poe, showing Macbeth his destiny and sealing Banquo's fate with their eerily crowned babies. Carina Howard, Hannah McGlashon and Daisy West are no delicate tutu-ed ballerinas, but women who command the space, muscles bulging, a sight to afear and / or seduce any man.
The last plaudit goes to Mark Bruce, who directs with complete confidence in his many decisions with the iconic text and choreographs his dancers to create a world suffused with the supernatural, but all too susceptible to the sharp steel of war. He realises that as reality fades from the mind of Macbeth and his Lady, we must hold on to it, the better to see their trauma. And we do.
Macbeth might be adapted with more control, more brio, more depth, but, frankly, I doubt it. Why not see for yourself?
Photo Nicole Guarino.