Macbeth, 3 Stars

Jackson’s Lane
20th and 21st March 2019

“Set in London during the stock market crash of 1987, this new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by award-winning theatre company Proteus takes the macabre tale to the trading room floor. The entirely ethnically diverse cast have worked closely with Theatre Ad Infinitum’s George Mann to create a highly physical, major new interpretation of a classic. Directed by Mary Swan, the artistic director of Proteus, this Macbeth is a gripping corporate thriller.”

Review by Mark Banfield, 3 Stars

Riz Meedin  Macbeth has a long, successful CV, but here he approached the text hesitantly giving what felt like a flat performance that lacked intent and left a huge hole at the heart of the story.

The direction and stage craft were noticeably wayward elsewhere. I would have enjoyed Macbeth’s face-off with Banquo’s ghost more, for example, if it hadn’t taken place in a cramped distant corner of the stage. As the shirtless ghoul spookily poured blood over himself, all I could do, in seat A5, was quietly seethe at the unforgiveable fact he had his back to me.

Alexandra Afryea gives  a committed performance as Lady Macbeth. She delivers her speeches with strong, skilful technique but, perhaps understandably, appeared overwrought at times simply in comparison with her weaker stage husband. Some of the direction, from Mary Swan, didn’t help her either. Most notably, asking her to reach for scissors to cut up a baby-gro during the early ‘unsexing’ speech. This seemed a bit of silly and unnecessary show-and-tell.

The multi-roling ensemble had a lot of work to do, given the problems elsewhere. Thankfully, they stepped up to the plate and each had moments that lifted the mood. As the Porter (although uncredited in the role), Jessica Andrade was asked to channel The Breakfast Club, including a dance number, and made it work. Umar Butt made a fine, muscular Banquo but excelled as a committed ‘middle’ witch, again with some impressive dance moves. Danny Charles wrestled manfully with some last-ditch fight choreography to be a suitably victorious Macduff when the end, mercifully, came

Katherine Heath’s costumes were welcome additions throughout and won points with direct nods to Grace Jones, Madonna and Miami Vice. Her set design, comprising three moveable boxes, provided some clever, striking images from a long dining table to a period phone box. They could, however, only do so much on their own

Set to an electrifying soundtrack of eighties classics, Macbeth interrogates how Thatcher’s government legitimised behemoth corporations to act above the law – like the feuding Thanes of Scotland. The production joins the ‘greed is good’ corporate landscape where, in the City, success is all and ruthless ambition is rewarded. The only problem is, how do you control it before it consumes you and your family?

Proteus is a long-established touring company, so it might be just bad luck I caught this one clumsy production.  It might also be a sign that tackling two-and-half hours of Shakespeare, compared to say five minutes of physical theatre, is a very challenging thing to do well. I applaud the ambition but sadly on this occasion cannot recommend the results.

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Location Jackson’s Lane, 269a Archway Road, London N6 5AA

Performance Dates Thursday 21st – Friday 22nd March 2019, 7.30pm

Box Office Tickets are available from or 020 8341 4421 priced from £10 – £16.
How to get there The nearest underground station is Highgate (Northern Line).

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including interval

Alexandra Afryea
Danny Charles
Jessica Andrade
Riz Meedin
Umar Butt

Writer William Shakespeare
Director Mary Swan
Set and costume design Kat Heath
Original music Paul Wild
Movement consultant George Mann, Theatre Ad Infinitum
Twitter @proteustheatre #Macbeth87 #SoundandFury
Notes Ages 12+