I sometimes wonder if Shakespeare ever imagined, in his wildest dreams, that 400 years later theatre companies would not only still be performing his work, but seeking out new, original perspectives to make the stories feel like they were written yesterday.
Macbeths, by David Fairs, is Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Except it isn’t, exactly. A fresh take on one of the Bard’s bloodiest plays reimagines events through the eyes of just two characters – the murderous Macbeth and his scheming wife. In the intimacy of their bedroom, the couple plot, make love, argue and ultimately meet their downfall; the other characters exist (well, some of them) and play their part (which mostly means getting brutally slaughtered) but only outside the four walls that make up the couple’s private realm.
And so the tale becomes not a political drama but a personal one, a story about how easily love can turn to obsession and madness, and about how quickly events can slip out of our control. Without the presence of outside influences, the Macbeths have nobody but themselves to blame for their actions and their eventual destruction – which makes it all the more surprising that we can still feel some sympathy for them as the play comes to an end.
The reframing of the story necessarily involves some chopping about of Shakespeare’s text, something I don’t usually enjoy – but in this case it not only works, it feels completely natural and like it could easily have been written that way in the first place. The interpretation of the three witches is particularly interesting and, without ever deviating from Shakespeare’s original words, brings a whole new perspective to a relationship and a story most of us probably think we know pretty well. In addition, this version positions Lady Macbeth’s fate – which usually goes almost unnoticed – at the forefront, in a welcome amendment that corrects the injustice of such a significant character normally meeting such an unremarkable end.
The production, directed by Anna Marsland, also boasts two spell-binding performances from David Fairs and Sarah Lambie, who I honestly don’t believe could have given any more. Lambie visibly unravels in front of our eyes, growing increasingly dishevelled as she loses control of events, of her smirking, petulant husband, and of her own sanity; her madness, when it descends, is frighteningly realistic. Fairs oozes charisma as Macbeth, but with a slightly psychopathic air from the outset that makes his rapid transformation into a hardened, remorseless murderer easy to accept. The two have great chemistry, their partnership as convincing in love as it is in loathing.
Macbeths is an impressive achievement, retaining all the drama and tension (not to mention the gore) of Shakespeare’s original, but at the same time feeling like a completely new, contemporary story. With riveting performances and a narrative that continually wrong foots its audience, David Fairs has created a gripping thriller that will appeal just as much to those who claim not to like Shakespeare as it does to die-hard fans.
Our performance of Macbeths was delayed by an hour because of a medical emergency, and I’ll admit during that hour’s wait, I thought briefly about heading home. I’m very glad I decided to stay, because this is a play that’s absolutely worth waiting for.
Review by Liz Dyer
This is a story of love.
And wanting the best for your family.
In the safety of the bedroom, a couple are at their most exposed and vulnerable. You are invited to sit, invisible, in the midst of this intimate space, to voyeuristically observe a relationship you may think you already know… but what happens behind the bedroom door? Enter. Watch them, through a more focussed – or more distorted – lens.
As their tight knit partnership spirals increasingly out of control, passion and obsession collide with devastating momentum. Thumbs are pricked and wicked things come, but the demons that hide under the skin, that run through the heart-blood, are far more destructive – and much more difficult to exorcise – than mere witches.
To what lengths do you go to achieve success for yourself, your partner, your blood? How do you hold onto your sense of self? Where do they stop and where do you begin?
Using only Shakespeare’s original text, David Fairs re-orchestrates Macbeth into Macbeths – a retelling solely from the point of view of Thane and Lady Macbeth, which audiences are finding innovative, surprising and deeply engaging.
Holding each other together can be the same as tearing each other apart.
Box Office opens at 7.00pm for cash sales and collection of pre-booked tickets. The performance lasts 75 minutes without interval. No re-admittance once the performance has commenced.
LATECOMERS CANNOT BE ADMITTED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. PLEASE ARRIVE IN GOOD TIME FOR THE START TIME OF 7.45PM
Over 18s only.
by DAVID FAIRS from WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
26 July – 3 August 2016