Macbeth

Theatre, Shakespeare
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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This condensed 'Macbeth' might give you a headache.

Filter Theatre company’s techy deconstructions of ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ are two of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen – not just in an ‘I guess that was pretty funny… for a Shakespeare play’ sort of way, but genuinely out-and-out hilarious, charged with freewheeling innovation and a joyous irreverence for the original texts.

You can’t really do the same to ‘Macbeth’, and though the company’s new production emphatically gives Shakespeare’s gory tragedy play ‘the Filter treatment’, it’s not always clear to what end.

An early end, that’s for sure: at 80 minutes long, it’s the shortest production of the Scottish Play I’ve ever seen. But it actually remains surprisingly faithful – there are cuts, but every scene is accounted for, with the bank of sound equipment in the middle of the performance space frequently used by the small, heavily doubled cast as a sort of spy station, with tiny snatches of more extraneous events floating in over the radio equipment.

The main innovation, though, is to make the scenes collapse into each other like dominos – Shakespeare’s prose is edited rather than compromised, but it’s the removal of most of the physical action that accounts for the greater part of the cuts. Where you might have a fight scene or a murder, there are only roars of light and sound that leave Ferdy Roberts’s softy-spoken Macbeth looking increasingly disorientated as he and Lady Macbeth (a queenly Poppy Miller) plough ever deeper into their schemes. It is quite the trip, and certainly functions as both an efficient account of the play and a piece at least resonant with its themes of incipient madness.

Is there anything more going on? The one significant deviation from the text comes when Duncan’s ghost wanders on stage reading from a set of modern crib notes to ‘Macbeth’; combined with other odd little details like Lady M packing goodie bags for everyone who attends the feast, and I wonder if the production is meant to somehow be based on a schoolchild dreaming about the play or some such.

Whatever the case, it’s really not very clear, and though Roberts and Miller are effective and sober anchors, the overall aesthetic rather confused me, the comedy and the trgedy rubbing against each other awkwardly. For once, Filter’s imaginations seems to have got the better of them.

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