The story of Macbeth's tragic demise has been told many times by hundreds, if not thousands, of theatre makers. His sharp rise and subsequent fall from power always comes as a surprise to the titular Macbeth, despite a warning from three witches who try to impart their wisdom; cryptically warning him of upcoming troubles.
Strong performances and clever design took us on the journey of Macbeth from the point of view of the witches and gave us a fresh perspective an oft-told play
Seeing everything through the witches eyes certainly gives the play a different spin. Everything in Macbeth is viewed with an eye of suspicion and we are encouraged to take glee in his downfall. All-female casting has gained much more prevalence recently, in order to create roles for women in traditionally male led companies and, although often adding insight, occasionally can feel a little forced. However the cast give strong performances, with their characterisations both clear and engrossing, and this production’s natural re-telling of the story ends up fully justifying its artistic aims. We predominantly see the play in duologues, a device that works surprisingly well, however coming in at just over ninety minutes the play could have benefitted from further cuts without losing anything significant.
Possibly the most striking aspect of the performance is in its clever design and use of props. The stage is clean, stark and elemental and when entering we are greeted with the hunched over witches, bent into unnatural shapes and poring over their bowls to mix concoctions and brew potions. These bowls are a clever device, allowing performers to apply and wash off the black face paint used as facial markings. Brechtian staging conjures up elements of many different cultures, from Pagan to Celtic to Wicken, and also has elements of Feudal Japan in the mix. The singlet red and silver costumes combined with the live drumming and use of a 'singing bowl' adds an interesting correlation between Japanese and British middle ages.
There were occasional microphone issues and some of the sound effects seemed to go astray, however the main problem with the sound was the venue itself. Unfortunately there was a great deal of noise bleed from outside at times and this occasionally muffled the actors. Fire Burn: The Tragedy of Macbeth is an intimate performance and would have been powerfully enhanced by a smaller, more atmospheric and certainly less noisy environment.
This telling of Macbeth certainly brings something new to the table. Strong performances and clever design took us on the journey of Macbeth from the point of view of the witches and gave us a fresh perspective an oft-told play. Fire Burn: The Tragedy of Macbeth is a dynamic and thoroughly enjoyable take on Shakespeare's bloody tragedy.