Guildford Shakespeare Company’s (GCS) content warning certainly tells you everything you need to know! “Shakespeare’s Macbeth contains themes of violence, war, murder, infanticide and the supernatural.” No surprises then.
However, the production is set against the background of a very contemporary guerrilla war, with whistling gunfire amidst a smoky haze, making the audience feel as if they could be in the line of fire. This made the atmosphere much more real and immediate and, quite frankly, scarier than most productions I have seen before. Maybe I should have paid more heed to the warning.
The three witches come screaming down the aisles towards the stage, seemingly far more frightened than frightening. They run right into the action but are cut down by sniper fire and, for the rest of the play, they appear as zombie-like creatures. Their rise from the dead is terrifying but also rather beautiful; the movement director, Laura Weston, really deserves a special mention for achieving scenes worthy of ballet, especially in the confined space of a Georgian church. Set and Costume Designer, Neil Irish, also manages to evoke a realistic sense of battlefields, battlements and banqueting hall in this confined space. Costumes seem contemporary, without jarring with Shakespeare’s text. The action scenes are also very well choreographed.
The entire GSC cast are as reliable as ever, especially as most of them, except for the actors playing Lord and Lady Macbeth, are juggling many parts, and dealing with many costume changes and switches of character. Stella Taylor, in the role of Lady Macbeth, is particularly effective in managing to transform from a beautiful, loving wife and charming hostess, to an evil and power-hungry partner-in-crime, as her desire to be queen overtakes her. Annabelle Terry, Lucy Pearson and Dan Krikler were all wonderful as the three witches, quite the most terrifying weird sisters I have seen.
This is a fast-paced and action-packed production leaving the audience (and presumably the cast) exhausted, exhilarated and thoroughly entertained. I can’t wait until the next one.
Review by Sally Knipe
As a bloody war draws to its conclusion, the celebrated warrior Macbeth and his ambitious wife are propelled headfirst into a chilling quest for ultimate power, fuelled by supernatural powers beyond their control.
The war may be over, but the battle for the throne has only just begun…
Shakespeare’s supernatural thriller is one of the most popular plays of all time. This brand new production is directed by Charlotte Conquest and designed by Neil Irish, who worked together on our last two celebrated winter seasons Romeo & Juliet and Measure for Measure.
It is seven years since GSC last staged MACBETH, and we’re delighted to be back once again in Surrey’s largest Georgian church – Holy Trinity – on Guildford High Street.
This production will be given a contemporary setting, evoking the guerrilla warfare seen in modern conflicts such as those in the Balkans.
8 – 29 February 2020
Holy Trinity Church, Guildford High Street
Evenings 7.30pm | Matinees 2.30pm