Is it possible to escape one’s fate? And does knowing that fate in advance mean that one’s future is impossible to change? Weighty questions I’m sure you will agree and questions that are examined by Shakespeare in his play Macbeth a new version of which is being presented at the Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton.
On a Scottish heath, three witches (Greta Wray, Bethan Johns & Helene Kosem) are meeting together and preparing themselves for visitors. These turn out to be Macbeth (Tom Durant-Pritchard), Thane (a man, often the chief of a clan, who held land from a Scottish king and ranked with an earl’s son) of Glamis and his fellow soldier Banquo (Joe Stuckey). The witches inform Macbeth that he is soon to receive more titles and honours including the ultimate position of King of Scotland. There is a prophesy too for Banquo, that he will father a line of kings though he himself will not be one. Macbeth sends a letter to his wife (Sophie Spreadbury) telling her of the prophecies and she, being a strong-willed woman urges her husband to do all he can to make the witches words come true. As the king visits the Macbeth’s castle, along with his son and heir Malcolm (Tom Child) and his retinue which includes the faithful Macduff (Harry Belcher). Night falls with everyone assembled in the castle and Macbeth, spurred on by his wife, ready to do what needs to be done to assure his passage to kinghood. However, when power is seized, there is no peace for the powerful and Macbeth would be a foolish man not to remember the other prophecies of the witches and their possible affect on his rule.
I’ve always liked Macbeth as a play. I personally think there are some really interesting and thought provoking points that shakespeare raises in the story. For example does Macbeth react to his knowledge of the prophecy to ensure it is fulfilled or, would the prophecy have come true anyway if Macbeth had not been aware of what had been foretold? And what of Lady Macbeth’s complicity with Macbeth’s deeds? Would she have been so murderous and steady if she had not been aware of the prophecy? All of these questions are there for the audience to mull over once the play has finished.
Prowl Theatre Company have presented an abridged version of the original play which on the whole works surprisingly well. For example the omission of a physical Duncan on the stage doesn’t detract from the story one bit. The presentation is very pared back with co-directors Durant-Pritchard and Edward Nash not relying on fancy sets, costumes or props to get the story across. In fact, as my companion pointed out, really gave the impression that this was a hipster version of the play, which considering the location of the theatre, works pretty well. I have to say that while, on the whole, the abridgment works but, due to the lack of costume changes, on occasion, I lost track of which character was speaking. This was particularly true in the second half of the play where my prior knowledge of the story did keep me on the right track.
Turning to the acting. This was, on the whole pretty good all the way through – though the witches, particularly in the ‘hubble bubble’ scene spoke so fast it was difficult to hear and have a response to the ingredients they were throwing into the cauldron. Having said that I have to really praise both Tom Durant-Pritchard and Sophie Spreadbury for a truly wonderful performance as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively. Seperately, each actor was excellent but together, they made a formidable team that totally dominated the stage and really brought out the depth of the two characters and their feelings for each other and the power they were plotting to take. I also thought Joe Stuckey’s portrayal of Banquo was spot on.
Overall, I quite enjoyed this version of Macbeth. Whilst I felt that the abridgment, in the second half particularly, missed out some important information, the play flowed nicely and never felt as if the story was rushing along. I would say this version is not for the Shakespeare purist, but it is well worth seeing if you are a fan of the Bard.
Review by Terry Eastham
The year is 2016, fear divides a nation…
After three witches tell Macbeth of their prophecy, he and his wife decide upon a bloody crusade. To kill a king? To kill your best friend?
What are the costs of blind ambition? In a world where paranoia rules, what lengths would you go to to ensure your own survival?
From the first terrifying moment to the completion of the witches prophesy, Shakespeare’s dark, psychological thriller threatens the senses.
9th August 2016 to 27th August 2016 – 7:30 PM
Price: £12 Standard, £10 Concession
Prices available at box office, email or via telephone.
Director: Edward Nash
Macbeth/Director: Tom Durant-Pritchard
Lighting designer: Vitorrio Verta
Sound designer: Edward Nash
The Courtyard Theatre
Company: Prowl Theatre Company