Review by Flossie Waite
Southwark Playhouse presents Macbeth
28th January – 12th February 2016
For ages 10+
It’s often said that if Shakespeare were around now, he would hate to see his plays being studied in schools. Well, sorry Will, but not only are you still a firm curriculum favourite, but for many school kids, seeing one of your plays is the only theatrical experience they’ll have. Amy Draper’s adaptation takes this responsibility on the chin, charging through a dark, moody Macbeth in about an hour.
The Southwark Playhouse studio is an ideal setting. The audience are seated in the round, alongside the performers who transfer themselves from armchair to armchair across a rug-covered floor. At first, it’s intimate enough to feel like a living room, telling this story of kings from within the castle walls. But the room seems to change shape – whispering voices echo from its corners, bulbs pulse, and the supernatural takes over, casting the feel of a séance. Eventually, it becomes the claustrophobic confines of a tortured mind as the Macbeths gradually unravel: we can see the whites of Lady Macbeth’s wild eyes.
The three performers – Anne-Marie Piazza, Martin Donaghy and Stanton Plummer-Cambridge – flit between characters, and you need a good grip of the story to keep up the pace (if you’re studying it, this is probably easy: the lad next to me was thrilled to recite the lines along with the performers). Piazza is standout as Lady Macbeth, disintegrating before us in the sleepwalking scene.
Though this whistle-stop tour takes in the gruesome highlights, we never see any blood – this is primarily a psychological thriller. Still, it feels violent – death is represented with white feathers, and the final battle between Macbeth and Macduff is a thrilling, charged flurry of plumes.
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