With impressive physicality and strong delivery of Shakespeare’s language, three young actors present a vigorous new adaptation of
Three young talents with obvious skill whose dedication to their roles packs a punch.
An striking opening sequence quickly establishes this concept, but unfortunately not enough time is dedicated to explaining it once we get to the main meat of the play. What is the relevance of becoming king of Scotland to the inmates of a juvenile prison? One assumes it means gaining leadership of a prison gang but too many gaps are left for the audience to fill in for ourselves for this to be clear. There are moments when modernising touches align with Shakespeare’s text - Macbeth’s hallucinatory soliloquy to the invisible dagger certainly has a drug-induced quality to it - but this can over-literalise moments that work better as metaphors.
The show’s strength is in its acting. Josh Beecham gives a convincing performance as Macbeth and Ned Wakeley’s gender-bending performance fulfils Lady Macbeth’s wish to be ‘un-sexed’ as she becomes a man full of quiet menace - although occasional slip-ups see both male and female pronouns used to denote him. It is Simon Morgan who steals the show, however, as he jumps with dexterity between the roles of Banquo, Duncan and Macduff, displaying a thorough and compelling grasp of Shakespeare’s language.
Ultimately all three actors succeed in making the play accessible to a new generation of Shakespeare fans, even if the transposition of the text to this specific context doesn’t quite work. The production would benefit from a closer analysis of the text, cutting lines that do not work in light of the concept - Lady Macbeth’s account of breastfeeding for instance. That said, it features three young talents with obvious skill whose dedication to their roles packs a punch.