Bussey Building, London – until 8 November 2017
Guest reviewer: Alessandra Cenni
Nothing screams ‘welcome to this production of Macbeth’ better than a lovely full-body skeleton comfortably sitting centre stage. The charming gentleman was the first character I met last night at the CFL Art Cafe in the Bussey Building – a suggestive performing space, large enough to allow an interesting setting, but that nonetheless will give you the chills when the lights go out.
The premise of this post-apocalyptic retelling of the famous tragedy was clearly stated in the programme: civilisation had met its fall, and humanity is trying its best to survive through violence, living on the scraps of the previous world. The setting and costumes give justice to this new world, and I found myself wondering how military clothes and bullet belts could feel even more appropriate than traditional costumes. Because they really did. This new desperate-fallen-revolutionaries look just clicked with the characters better than I expected.
I found the visuals and sounds of the second act particularly beautiful – especially if you have a thing for dark and stormy nights, blood-thirsty characters, and violent actions, like I do. That was the part where the raw savagery of the plot found its perfect expression in this broken, hopeless imitation of humanity.
And yet, this backstory also becomes a downside to the production. It raised lots of expectations on the way this story was going to intertwine with the original and what it could add to it, but these were never fulfilled. The backstory was more of a background than a story, maybe also due to a pretty static stage.
Since I love the idea, I would definitely love to see how this would play out in a larger production.
The cast gave a fierce, energetic performance that had its strongest moments during the second act. At points I was amazed at how I felt as though I was in the middle of a epic war with only six actors actually fighting on stage.
The witches chose to go for a seriously creepy effect (borderline disturbing, I would say). Their movements had something feral, that belongs to wild beasts rather than humans. The main pair – Macbeth and his Lady – were just made for the part. Henry Proffit’s Macbeth starts off with a cheeky smile, almost playful, but his later torment seems genuine. Sadie Pepperrell (also one of the witches) plays a Lady Macbeth who looks extraordinarily young, charming, and ambitious. Her mental breakdown in Act 2 was particularly strong and convincing.
My loyalty, however, goes to Macduff (Jared Fortune) and his family. Lady Macduff (Danielle Bond – again, one of the witches as well) fights like a tiger against four men, and so does her son, before being slaughtered. Macduff’s despair was so authentic I took his family’s death as a personal offence, and I was really invested in their revenge.
A special mention goes to the kids – Quentin Debone as Macduff’s son, and Adam Nkomo as Fleance at this performance – who really made an impression on me and, from the high-pitched noises I heard, on the rest of the audience as well.
This Macbeth could be a starting point for something truly great; it is also a good way to get to know this venue, and definitely worth a trip to South London even if you’re not local.