Macbeth gets the prequel it never needed in Chiaroscuro’s portrait of the thane as a young warrior. We meet the witches, the Lady and the doomed Scot himself in a well-meaning but bafflingly staged imagining of how Shakespeare’s villainous tragic couple came to meet.

In lieu of any set, the middle distance is continually stared into in many wistful attempts to conjure the moors out of thin air; sadly they’re never really believable.

The main problem, it seems, is spatial. Incarnadine takes place on Scotland’s rugged heathland – it is a harsh environment, cold, bleak and the kind of place where witches could conceivably be found wandering around with wounded soldiers in tow. Except that in Gail Sawyer’s production we are never transported outside of the theatre’s walls: there is no set or sound design to conjure up the haunting atmosphere that is desperately required and her young performers are left to flounder in limbo. The choice to use no set or scenery of any kind is a bold one. If done well it can prove to be supremely effective, however the space at Greenside is so big that the actors often find themselves orbiting one another with no sense of place or purpose. In lieu of any set, the middle distance is continually stared into in many wistful attempts to conjure the moors out of thin air; sadly they’re never really believable.

There are some good things to be had here though. Felicity McCormack shines as the manipulative Gruoch and Zoe Lambrakis as her bewitching foil Truath is strong and commanding. Peter Dewhurst does a decent job as Macbeth, although he never really gets much to get his teeth into and has to make do with clichéd lines about how “there are many paths that we can take”. The rest of the ten-strong cast perform well – the occasional battle scenes are competently choreographed and performed with vigour and there is undeniably a lot of young talent to be found in Chiaroscuro’s ranks.

Fundamentally though, this is a flawed production. The logical sequel to Incarnadine would be a highly predictable and stale Scottish play that wouldn’t know where it was. An interesting production with some promising actors that sadly never lives up to its own concept.

Reviews by Sam Forbes




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The Blurb

The origins of the most formidable pairing in Shakespeare: a young Macbeth loses his heart somewhere between the mists of Highland moors and the shadows of courtly intrigue, but all is not what it seems. Clashing broadswords, dark incantations… The toll for power is paid in blood, but blood may not be all that you lose. Dazzling physicality and soundscape combine to tell the haunting tale of the meeting of the Macbeths. Praise for Chiaroscuro: ‘Absolutely top notch first rate fight sequences which I have rarely seen equalled ... a magnificently physical production’ ( ‘Stunning’ (Nicola Salmon, RSC).

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