Hope Theatre, London – until 20 February 2016
The witches in Macbeth are the most interesting and powerful characters in Shakespeare’s play, and the easiest to reconceptualise. I’ve seen them as nurses, children, old men, dancers and various other incarnations, with differing levels of success. In 6FootStories’ version, the company’s resident gypsy characters, Billy, Sailor and Blackmouth, play the three witches, who play all the other characters in this hour-long edit. The gypsy fortune-tellers suit the witches’ manipulative, ruthless personalities and the added layer of interpretation is handled skilfully. This three-hander loses its way slightly with the addition of slapstick elements, but good performances and a solid but versatile concept make this three-man Macbeth: A Tale of Sound a Fury thoroughly enjoyable.
Here, the witches are creatures of the earth rather than ethereal, and blend into the sinister gypsy characters well. They don’t feel human what with their grotesquely stylised movement and voice work, but actors Will Bridges, Jake Hassam and Nigel Munson switch from gypsy, to witch, to other characters with clarity and ease. Simple accessories and contrasting accents signify character changes and the cast differentiate them splendidly, taking turns to play the bigger roles. Some actor-character combos work better than others: Will Bridges is a bit too drag as Lady Macbeth, but is a wonderful Macbeth. Nigel Munson is an excellently dark Banquo. Jake Hassam as Sailor is the leader of the three, the most charismatic performer, and excels at every character he takes on. Though as a trio, they fling their energy around the tiny pub theatre and can easily suit a larger venue.
The initial animalistic aggression works brilliantly and is supported by gypsy punk music, giving way to the witches’ playacting the other characters. They return to this tone as the gypsies/witches, until Banquo’s murder, which is inexplicably comedic – an ineffective choice. Though their mocking is cruel and vicious in itself, it breaks the established convention. A further scene employs object manipulation to similar effect, and the objects used are clean and new, also clashing with the filthy aesthetic of the travelling fortune-tellers.
There are a few other minor issues, such as not returning to the witches often enough and the random appearance of vats of spaghetti, but these are few and rare. 6FootStories thoroughly owns this Macbeth and whilst staying true to the story, adds a level of interpretation that makes this a unique production. It might be tough to follow for someone with no prior knowledge of Shakespeare’s original, but the cast bring clarity, insight and excellent performances – the ingredients of a successful Shakespeare reinvention.
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