Greenwich Theatre, London – until 7 March 2020
A glance at the credits suggests that this is Ricky Duke’s Macbeth, as much as Shakespeare. Dukes directs his own adaptation here and has also designed this production for Lazarus Theatre and at its best, it is thrilling in its stylish directorial vision. With its eye on the ensemble, it’s the physicality of this production that marks it out as a refreshing change to the norm.
Played in contemporary dress, this Macbeth finds itself unmoored from any real specific context. Guns and gas masks sit alongside sharp suits for the company but the world of the play is ultimately, suitably strange. Apparitions haunt the stage, watching scenes impassively; coronations burst out of glitter drop falls; war is fought through the scattering of mountains of paperwork.
It’s a bold resetting and one which has its moments. The lining up in single file for coronation may borrow from Kings of War but remains an indelible image each time it is used to the tune of Zadok the Priest, pointing up the endlessly cyclical nature of regime change. Having the Weird Sisters chanting in gas masks proves similarly striking and the hints of sexual repression among this brotherhood lend an especial charge to some key moments.
Phil Matejtschuk’s sound design builds effectively on the ominous atmosphere of the play, aided too by Alex Musgrave’s lighting, rendering some of the more challenging staging decisions more fascinating (Dukes is perhaps a little too keen on some of the more undersung inches of the stage). And a clear, unfussy approach to the text ensures the necessary clarity – Jamie O’Neill’s Macbeth and Lewis Davidson’s Banquo both standing out in this respect.