Theatre productions of Macbeth often run alongside A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as both plays draw on a common theme of the supernatural in a complementary way: mischievous fairies and magical misunderstandings vs the terrifying world of witchcraft and murderous prophecies. This performance by the reputable Watermill Ensemble would have been better suited to the lighter and more whimsical play; as despite good acting throughout it was anachronistic to have such a rock’n’roll cast performing 'the Scottish play’.
The song repertoire including ‘Paint It Black’ by the Stones (could we please, just to have something in keeping with the bard, rename them ‘The Scones’, as that is where Malcolm finally becomes king?), 'House of the Rising Sun' by The Animals, and 'Hurt' by Nine Inch Nails was well performed, with live instrumentals, but totally incongruous from start to finish with the medieval world of Kings and Thanes. Lennox even kept reappearing strumming a red guitar. The play at times dipped into musical theatre, but with absolutely no relation to dialogue or theme. I would have enjoyed seeing these excellent actors and singers in a gig - but we were here to see Macbeth. I wanted to understand the complexities of Shakespearean language and syntax. Actual soliloquies, important soliloquies, were totally understated. Lady Macbeth (Emma McDonald) gave a solid performance, as did Billy Postlethwaite as Macbeth. Indeed, there was great acting throughout. But the audience were sidetracked.
The set was also excellent: in a foetal, womblike way it did reflect the dark, floundering and superstitious world of Shakespeare’s imagination. But in the second half we spy an illuminated sign ‘Hotel’ missing the 'OT'. We are now in ‘HEL’. That’s a bit savoury scone, methinks. I'm talking cheese.
Another obstacle to my enjoyment (and comprehension) of this production was the gigantic height of my fellow theatre goers. I think people born of the 1970’s may now need booster seats in order to appreciate Shakespeare. The show was tailored to a post- Peaky Blinders audience: remember when music was in the background, anyone? And in keeping with the historical ascendance? And when actors and spectators were like this reviewer - 5'3 with bad teeth and splayed feet, not gargantuan sleek sexy guitar strumming Macbethean witches in silver lamé dresses?