Summerhall’s steeply tiered Demonstration Room gives off the air of an amphitheatre, but its back wall houses very modern projections. White noise gives way to the witches, flashed in front of us as this malicious tale commences. The space is intimate, but we are detached observers looking down on this tragedy that unfolds in a series of intensely focussed and tightly delineated scenes.
The concentrated interaction created by stripping away almost all of the text to leave only that of the eponymous thane and his wife is chilling and revealing.
David Walker and Catriona Lexy Campbell give compelling performances as a couple seemingly in the power of forces beyond their control. As their simple scheme disintegrates, so does their relationship; the options before them become increasingly distasteful. The energy of evil ambition, the power of persuasion, the measure of manipulation and the sickening guilt of criminal acts assume palpable force in their portrayal of this blighted couple.
The bare performance area complements the bleakness of this tragedy. Following the crowning ceremony, it is augmented with just a solitary chair, on which MacBeatha sits for his finest moment and ultimate demise. Red is the only bright colour to be seen, appearing vividly on Lady Macbeth’s costumes. It brings no joy, for each time we gaze upon her we see the blood which spatters and clothes her body, and from which she cannot escape.
This production is a grimly successful, stark example of epic theatre. On entering we are given a scene-by-scene synopsis of the play in either Gaelic or English. Communication between characters is possible by mobile phone, headlines appear and TV news and commentary updates us on events elsewhere. The projected characters are suitably detached from the main action, but at times it feels as though they have strings attached to our players, controlling their movements.
This is a brave Gaelic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. The concentrated interaction created by stripping away almost all of the text to leave only that of the eponymous thane and his wife is chilling and revealing. For those who possess Gaelic as a language it is a chance to hear its richness applied to the Scottish play and spoken by two of its outstanding exponents. For the rest of us, it is a rare opportunity to experience its sounds and power. In an unknown play it might be an obstacle, but in one so well known and with the story at hand it allows us to focus on the force of the dialogue and the profound emotions of this doomed couple .