Fortitude Dance company’s attempt to stage a ‘physical theatre’ version of Shakespeare’s bloody Scottish tragedy in the club scene of 1980’s Manchester is certainly a novel take on the classic tale, but one that falls well short of being an engaging or enjoyable piece of theatre.
The cast engage in overlong sequences of synchronised dancing that add nothing to overall mood, coming off as completely disjointed and or unintentionally funny
The story, despite the setting change, remains largely the same: the brave and valiant Macbeth is told by three witches that he will be King and, goaded on by his Wife, he usurps the King and soon begins to fall prey to madness and bloodthirst. The decision to set the play in this period is an unusual take but one that could have been pulled off well if effort was put in to modify the story accordingly, which here has not been done nearly enough, and we are left confused as to why a group of clubbers has a King, why someone would kill to become said King and why armies would be involved in the struggle to ensure said Kingship. Indeed this setting change only really seems to exist to effect the costumes and justify the blaring club music that plays over most of the play, drowning out the actors and leaving your ears ringing.
This disconnect between plot and setting could be overlooked if the rest of the performance was remotely engaging; here however this was not to be found. The majority of the cast clearly struggle with loading their speech with the required emotion, leaving large sections of the play lacking in energy and anything remotely resembling tension. Even the shortest scenes feel like they drag on for hours.
Professed ‘physical theatre' really translates to the plot stopping abruptly every time a character dies, so the cast can engage in overlong sequences of synchronised dancing that add nothing to overall mood, coming off as completely disjointed and or unintentionally funny. The moment where Macduff is informed of his family’s death is a standout, as the performer begins to writhe quietly in anguish whilst his two companions, completely unfazed, continue to talk as if nothing has happened.
None of the above is helped by the abysmal sound design, which seems to have been created by someone with no concept of fading, as sound cues smash into each other or simply cut off abruptly, taking the audience out of what little immersion they may have had to begin with.
What is so frustrating about this piece is there are a few moments where the concept shows promise: the death of Lady Macbeth and the second meeting with the witches were choreographed brilliantly and indeed it would have likely served the company to have simply dropped the text entirely and perform the show solely through movement.
In the end, this Macbeth feels like a night out at an overpriced club you really wish you could forget.