A play about murder, greed and unchecked rule, MacBeth is a play that never loses relevance. And, in a time when despotism seems to once again be on the rise, it is a fitting choice as well as a captivating one. Susanne Crosby’s take on Shakespeare’s gruesome tragedy came alive in the Barn Theatre, where a stripped back venue was transformed into medieval Scotland.

Susanne Crosby’s take on Shakespeare’s gruesome tragedy came alive in the Barn Theatre.

Lighting, executed by Martin Oakley, helped to create atmosphere in the theatre-cum-community centre, turning crimson at the appearance of Lady Macbeth and bathing Banquo’s ghost in an eerie grey spotlight. Similarly haunting was the performance by the three witches (played by Emily Hale, Katie Hunwick and Nettie Sheridan) who magically emerged from under blankets when the lights came up and wandered terrifyingly among the audience during the interval. But, although the witches made a fearsome trio together, individually their exaggerated witchy voices felt slightly less convincing.

The real highlights of the production came from stand out performances from Guy Steddon (Macbeth) and Jacqueline Harper (Lady Macbeth) who displayed captivating chemistry and successfully portrayed the couple’s unravelling into madness. Though, for a woman-directed show, I would have liked to see Harper given a bit more prominence. Equally strong was Phil Nair-Brown’s portrayal of Macduff, but it was a shame that some of the secondary characters seemed to lack experience. Given that one of the joys of Shakespeare is the word play, it was disappointing that, at times, poor delivery meant this was sometimes lost on the audience.

Director Susanne Crosby fell in love with Macbeth during her school years and her commitment to an authentic Macbeth was clear throughout. But, for one of Shakespeare’s darkest and spookiest plays, more could have been done to maintain the audience’s attention over the two and a half hour performance. The theatre was peppered with teenagers hoping to see Shakespeare come alive but, unfortunately, this highly traditional performance fell a bit flat with this part of the audience. While it’s true that 16 year olds are notoriously difficult to please, I was inclined to agree with them that the production lacked a bit of excitement.

Crosby’s sell-out show will be playing at the Barn Theatre until the 30th March.

Reviews by Beth Watson

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The Blurb

A brave Scottish General, Macbeth, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland.

This glimpse into the future has catastrophic consequences.

Spurred into action by his wife, he propels himself on a destructive journey of ambition and lust for power, which slowly destroys all in his path.

Shakespeare shows us, in Macbeth, the dangers of ambition without conscience and what happens when guilt catches up with us and brings us to reckoning. Greed, murder, supernatural prophecies – and a very human General who after one dreadful act is propelled headlong into tragedy.

This play is about how those who have unchecked rule and desire for power, for its own sake, can destroy everything and everyone before them; including the ones they say they love – the echoes of which are still relevant today.

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