MacBeth

Some say that when actor-managers were struggling for money, they used to turn in desperation to the one play that could always guarantee an audience. As a result, those actors who feared for their pay packet were spooked if they heard this play being rehearsed in the wings. For this reason, or maybe another, the name of the play became the unluckiest thing to say in a theatre. Actors instead referred to it as “the Scottish Play”. Its true name, of course, is MacBeth. The play is classic Shakespearean propaganda in deference to the earliest of Stuart kings, and quite a slap in the face to the real Mac Bethad mac Findlaich, a well-respected Scottish warrior King who ruled quite effectively from 1040 to 1057. But hey, that’s the power of theatrical interpretation.

Dreadful but performed good-spiritedly and without pretension

Bathway Theatre Company is an offshoot of the thriving drama scene at the University of Greenwich. The head honcho is clearly Jess Bee, who is writer, director, and plays Lady MacBeth. The group’s intention is to create a “strange little show”, a one hour MacBeth presented in modern language with a non-binary lead. London’s Globe Theatre seems to have been trying to do something similar recently, so Bathway are in good company.

The modern language is dreadful. Out goes “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”. In comes “I’m not meant to say but you will be Thane of Cawdor”, together with “Keep Calm and Carry On” plus quite a lot of swearing. MacBeth describes Lady MacBeth as “the mac to my cheese”. At one point a character says “this ain’t Shakespeare, darling”. Quite. In a play all about murder, such handling of the language seems well fitted.

At one point, the three witches jive to Very Superstitious. The lighting turns off and on again at the start of each scene, with a bit of green thrown in for the witches. I am reminded of Grotbags.

As the eponymous Thane, Aster Scrivens-Blackler is very serious and intense - and quite effective in developing tension and character. Other cast members are less convincing, although clearly enjoying themselves to the full. I never realised Malcolm was quite so lusty.

And yet I thoroughly enjoy the whole thing, sat as I am amidst a handful of Greenwich students and a Maltese family freshly flown in. I like the bit when papier-mâché heads of those murdered are thrown onstage. And the bit when Lady MacBeth says “Out damn spot” while wearing a polka dot dressing gown. There is some real Fringe spirit here - a group of university students who are trying to do something different and thoroughly enjoying themselves along the way. The Fringe is about taking chances in what you see, watching that which is dreadful but performed good-spiritedly and without pretension alongside the surprise treasures in backwater venues. On that basis, this MacBeth is definitely no tragedy.

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Performances

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The Blurb

This MacBeth isn’t your normal Macbeth. Have you ever wanted to see a Bee Gees song in a Shakespearean play? Ross as a multi-talented sprint runner? A beautiful dance number? The energy to be skyrocketed like kids after candy? The Bathway Theatre Company presents an adaptation of the new and improved, MacBeth. This tragicomic play explores how human greed and lust for power can ultimately lead to one's downfall.

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