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Mark Bruce Company’s Macbeth at Wilton’s Music Hall – Review

MACBETH by Mark Bruce Company touring 2018. Photo by Nicole Guarino. Jonathan Goddard as Macbeth, Eleanor Duval as Lady Macbeth
MACBETH by Mark Bruce Company touring 2018. Photo by Nicole Guarino. Jonathan Goddard as Macbeth, Eleanor Duval as Lady Macbeth

The witches (in the alphabetical order listed in the programme: Carina Howard, Hannah McGlashon, and Daisy West) in this adaptation of Macbeth move as one entity, but a sense of foreboding regarding what is about to unfold during the evening’s proceedings is more apparent in the music rather than the movement. By now, you will have already realised that this is Macbeth reimagined as a dance production. And it is certainly a departure from seeing the story played out through early seventeenth-century blank verse.

I tried to put myself in the position of someone who hadn’t, for whatever reason, encountered Macbeth before. The salient points, and more besides, are easy to grasp, while some of the details would be recognisable for those who already have some familiarity with the Shakespeare tragedy play. This production thus, broadly speaking, satisfies both camps – those who know the story and those who don’t. There’s no pleasing the purists, of course, who will invariably find the idea of a production of Macbeth not beginning with “When shall we three meet again / In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” to be nothing short of putrid. It’s their loss.

Indeed, while contemporary dance has been known to include dialogues and speeches, there is only one spoken word here: “AAAGGGHHH!” The manner and speed with which Lady Macbeth (Eleanor Duval) gets the attendants to Duncan (Stephen Berkeley-White) drunk to the point of unconsciousness is almost hilarious – though, let’s be fair, who wants to sit and watch them drink until such time as they could feasibly pass out?

MACBETH by Mark Bruce Company touring 2018.  Photo by Nicole Guarino. Masks by Dorothee Brodrück.
MACBETH by Mark Bruce Company touring 2018. Photo by Nicole Guarino. Masks by Dorothee Brodrück.

Despite the relatively brief running time (just under two hours, and that’s with an interval), the production is steadily paced. There was an unexpected exquisiteness to Lady Macbeth, which came through in a solo dance in the first half, shortly followed by some palpable chemistry, as well as plotting and scheming, with Macbeth (Jonathan Goddard). Goddard’s portrayal of the title character is simply extraordinary – his torment, for instance, as the witches do their worst in the second half is highly palpable.

Some scene changes come across as very smooth, assisted by the use of good lighting – or rather the lack thereof. This is, after all, Macbeth, and the darkness magnified the intense atmosphere. The softer dance routines, rather beautiful as they were, accentuated the doom and gloom aspects, and with the words stripped away, it becomes clearer than usual just how bloody the play is – and this is a production where fake blood is used sparingly.

My only gripe is that all that twisting and turning around that various characters were doing in the closing scenes became a tad too repetitive. It was also the only point at which I was confused with regards to what was happening. But, overall, this was an enjoyable experience. Shakespeare was onto something when he wrote in Julius Caesar (Act III, Scene I, lines 121-123): “How many ages hence / Shall this our lofty scene be acted over / In states unborn and accents yet unknown!”. A marvellous alternative rendering, genuinely very engaging, and worth seeing.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

With direction and choreography by visionary artistic director Mark Bruce, a cast of nine outstanding performers and dramatic design by the same creative team behind Dracula and The Odyssey, Mark Bruce Company’s ‘Macbeth’ will realise a beautifully harrowing vision of an internal wasteland formed from the pursuit of power through ruthless means.

Drama, dance and film audiences will be drawn to Bruce’s imaginative vision of the treacherous Macbeths’ (Jonathan Goddard, Eleanor Duval left, photo by Nicole Guarino) toxic world of jealousy, ambition and corruption. Set in a supernatural and brutal underworld, both tragic and beautiful, with a horror film atmosphere of menace and murder … all of this will be packed into Bruce’s new production.

Performers: Eleanor Duval, Jonathan Goddard, Jordi Calpe-Serrats, Christopher Thomas, Daisy West, Dominic Rocca, Hannah McGlashon, Steven Berkeley-White, Carina Howard.

Choreographer/director: Mark Bruce
Set design: Philip Eddolls
Lighting design: Guy Hoare
Costume design: Dorothée Brodrück

23rd February to 17th March 2018
London, Wilton’s Music Hall
www.wiltons.org.uk

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