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Macbeth at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre – Review

MacbethThe Arrow and Traps Theatre Company continues its re-workings of Shakespeare in a new production of Macbeth, at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

Adapted by Artistic Director Ross McGregor, the production is the first of the company’s attempts at one of the big five Shakespeare plays, and though it is more faithful to its source material than the director’s notes suggest, the play is solidly executed with a clear commitment to maximum visual impact for minimum staging complexity.

Many might ask: what is new to say about Macbeth? With such rich material at your disposal, originality is beside the point. The Arrows & Traps Theatre Company succeed in imbuing this classic tale with energy and modernity. Proud of its use of a gender equal casting (there are more women than men cast in this otherwise traditionally male-dominated play), the standout directorial decision of this interpretation is undoubtedly the casting of Becky Black as Banquo. A badass from the first, fight scenes and edgy costuming render the character in a whole new light. Black is captivating in her performance, and I found myself delighted even at her unspeaking presence as a bloody-faced ghost. Jean Apps also adds a dignified presence as Duncan.

Set around a simple table, the lighting is very successful – particularly in scenes involving the infamous three witches. Lighting Designer Beth Gibbs is to be highly commended for her efforts to imbue this simple stage with clever lighting choices, all the mystery and horror of Macbeth conveyed in a few light touches, effortlessly aligned to the sharply delivered movements, developed through the excellent teamwork of McGregor, Will Pinchin and Alex Payne (who also delivers a superb Macduff). The witches, played with delicacy by Elle Banstead-Salim, Olivia Stott and Monique Williams, provide several standout moments, the three moving in sync to torment their fellow players. Incongruous to this, however, were the musical numbers, which somewhat undermined a desire to work into the production a trendy rock-and-roll edge – a desire not quite carried through despite the leather trappings of the performers.

Though the director’s note suggests that decisions were made to convey Lady Macbeth and her husband’s relationship trials in a new way, this was somewhat lost on myself, though David Paisley (as Macbeth) offers us a strong and seamless performance. His confidence and stage presence are undeniable, a very rugged Macbeth in a very modern aesthetic. Though Paisley and Cornelia Baumann (Lady Macbeth) have chemistry on stage, they both descend a little too quickly into the ‘nervous shakes’ as the guilt takes hold. A stronger, more subtle edge (with a slower visible descent into madness) when on stage together might have been better in keeping with what is an otherwise very tough and cool production. In all, it did feel faithful to the source material, the adaption registering more in the directorial, staging, costuming and lighting choices, than in a development of the original play. This is by no means a criticism – all these qualities are very successfully executed, such that further reworking is not required.

This clever team of Shakespeare enthusiasts have delivered up a very exciting rendition of Macbeth; with all the ghoulish qualities of good horror, a ‘steampunk’ edge, intelligent staging and lighting choices, and very solid performances overall, this is a Macbeth for a modern audience – all the delights of the classic tale, delivered with new energy and insight.

4 stars

Review by Christina Care Calgaro

Something wicked this way comes
Critically-acclaimed Arrows & Traps Theatre Company return to the New Wimbledon Studio after their 5-star productions of Taming of the Shrew and Titus Andronicus with the beginning of their “Broken Crown” season, Shakespeare’s iconic and bloodied cautionary tale about the dark side of ambition.

When the prophecy of three witches proclaims that Macbeth is destined to become the King of Scotland, he and Lady Macbeth embark upon a murderous journey of power, paranoia, betrayal, black magic and suicide.

Tickets 14 and 12. Not suitable for children under the age of 12.
Book tickets for New Wimbledon Theatre Studio

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Booking to Saturday 9th July 2016


  • Christina Carè

    'Christina is just another Aussie in London, writing about the arts and signing up for all the weird performance productions the city has to offer. She is Content Editor at Spotlight and tweets from @christinacare.'

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