Edinburgh Fringe 2012
This production turns the dark elements of the Macbeth story into a raging, pumping outdoor spectacle that is impressively staged and moving to watch.
The courtyard of the Old College Quad is a suitably Gothic setting. Using motorbikes, fire and a Nazi-esque theme; it creates a dream-world of purgatory where Macbeth cannot escape his demons. The story as the Bard wrote it concerns a general, who after receiving a prophecy from a trio of witches, commits regicide and then carries out further murders to hold power. His kingship is racked with guilt and paranoia and this is what is focused on here.
In this production, Macbeth is dressed in heavy leather and after he executes his rival begins to be hounded and haunted by all manner of things, primarily the witches who, on stilts, are looming faceless spectres. His enemies chase him on motorbikes and he is ultimately consumed by fire and hatred.
As a spectacle this has very powerful and haunting moments. But it also suffers from an uneven pace and poor delivery. The strong Polish accents and lack of intonation make it hard to hear the words, although they use microphones. That said, the actors are excellent physical performers; they have a strong, deliberate style that anchors them in the gloom. The use of dark, heavy costume for the mortals and light, ghostly material for the witches is effective. The overriding use of black scenery against the element of fire, makes for an aggressive atmosphere.
It does take a bit of time to work out what is going on, or to accept that the story is being told through vignettes on themes of masculinity, tyranny, guilt and cruelty; and is more about maintaining and building an atmosphere than linearity. Perhaps this is why it suffers in the middle when the protagonist and his Lady Macbeth exchange words that sound clunky and out of place here. The stage is at the back of the performance area and quite far from the action, and it is not until the end that it really bears an impact, with the most horrifying image of Macbeth burning to death.This production works best in the arena where Macbeth cannot escape his demons. The witches are truly frightening, the little son of Banquo (one of the murdered) who rides around on a little bike, the hellraisers on motorbikes, Macbeth facing his doppelganger, all overladen with a pumping industrial soundtrack and raw lighting. The use of props, costume, light and sound merge flawlessly here.
Overall then this is an excellent and powerful example of promenade physical theatre. It creates a unique retelling of Macbeth that is at its strongest when the essence of its dark and violent elements are frighteningly visualized.