The Tragedy of Macbeth, 2 Stars

The Tragedy of Macbeth
Southwark Playhouse
14 March – 8 April 2023

“Following a hugely successful Edinburgh Festival 2022 run, award-winning Flabbergast Theatre are bringing their highly critically acclaimed The Tragedy of Macbeth to Southwark playhouse for a four-week run.

In this classic tale of greed and guilt, Flabbergast’s Macbeth fuses a rigorous and respectful approach to text and storytelling to bring a magical, lucid interpretation of Shakespeare’s blood-soaked tragedy to life.

Playing to their strengths and background in puppetry, clown, mask, ensemble and physical theatre, Flabbergast have developed their first text-based production (with extensive R&D with Wilton’s Musical Hall London and Grotowski Institute Poland) to foster the bard’s original text supported with exhilarating live music to produce a provocative and enjoyably accessible show.

Beautifully performed music and vocal work combine into a powerful live soundscape creating an atmosphere that both compliments and juxtaposes the action. With a stripped back set, and an aesthetically arresting design, the tightknit ensemble of actors performs a dark and visceral manifestation of the work’s essence and underlaying themes.

Flabbergast presents an instinctive interpretation of Shakespeare’s most wretched tragedy, working to draw out the parallels with modern society. At its heart, the dominant recurring theme and fundamental narrative that powers The Tragedy of Macbeth is the masculine fear of feminine power; and in this sense, the play is as pertinent today as it has ever been. 

This timeless work examines what it meant to be a man, and what it meant to be a woman and underscores the social contracts between the two that dictate the actions of the protagonists. The notion that gender is a social construct, is never more clear than during Lady Macbeth‘s “unsex me here” soliloquy, as she fights to set aside her feminine role, lest it hinder her dark ambitions. And the witches – who can appear as crones or maids – embody the power which threatened the patriarchal establishment.

Bringing a performance for both new and established theatregoers to fully appreciate, Flabbergast’s Shakespeare is for everyone; a visceral and eloquent retelling of Shakespeare’s imbrued tale of vicissitude.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 2 Stars

Well, that’s a Macbeth like no other that I’ve seen. Arriving at the theatre for Press Night and there are a couple of cast members front of house in costume going about their business. Entering the theatre and the cast are on-stage writhing around and making strange noises. All very 70s.

The Set is dust sheets on the floor, wrapped around drums and hanging as a back wall. They have stains on and what you could take to be plaster dust. The cast appear to be wearing muscle vests and potato sack cloth skirts. Several of the skirts have popped open at the back showing their black underwear and that the skirts don’t fit very well. The cast have also got plaster dust in their hair, on their faces and on their bodies.

Sections of the show are sung and this is truly glorious! They’re great singers. There are 2 dance pieces that again are very good. They sound like Shakespearean actors but that’s about as Shakespeare as the show gets. With clowning pieces and some puppetry it all gets a little lost in the staging that includes spitting wine at each other, pouring wine, crushing grapes and smashing an apple.

The lighting uses old fashioned techniques that work very well. However downstage centre is a very obtrusive light batten with 2 rifle mics at each end causing a clumsy obstruction for the cast and looking very out of place in the set.

Luckily I know the story of Macbeth, otherwise I would not have a clue from watching this version of the show. The production enjoys the mess of the staging more than the story telling.

Macbeth – Henry Maynard
Lady Macbeth – Briony O’Callaghan
Banquo/Dotori – Simon Gleave
Duncan/Macduff – Daniel Chrisostomou
Witch/Ross – Vyte Garriga
Witch/Lennox/Lady MacDuff – Paulina Krzeczkowska
Angus/Porter/Seyton – Dale Wylde
Malcolm – Kyll Thomas-Cole

Tickets: Click here