Lady Macbeth is Abi Titmuss's first Shakespeare role
I have to admit that that one of the main reasons I wanted to see Macbeth at Lowestoft's Seagull Theatre was Abi Titmuss!
However, as I heard more, my interest deepened and widened. Macbeth is a difficult play to stage.
It is a great introduction to Shakespeare, but there are many of us who have studied it at school or have seen it already and we come prejudice-laden.
One reason why Macbeth is accessible is that the story is a common one of power corrupting an individual as we see Macbeth transform from a loyal nobleman into a despotic king.
However, many modern audiences would have difficulty believing in medieval witchcraft and following medieval Scottish warfare.
From what I had heard before the play, it was promised that this production of Macbeth would bridge this gap modern audiences faced by setting it in the current world of nightclubs and knife crime.
Witches and ouija boards
I was concerned that there could be the danger of 'dumbing down' or being gimmicky.
The director walked this modernisation tight rope appropriately and did not either 'dumb down' or go down the gimmick route.
The three witches that were traditionally cauldron-stirring old hags have now become three teenage girls possessed by the magic of ouija boards.
This Macbeth, rather than being a Scottish sword wielding thane, is now a gun carrying inner city gangster whose kingdoms are nightclubs not the cold heaths of Scotland.
I was concerned that the video wall that hung at the back of the stage would intrude. The films that were displayed illuminated, but did not add or distract us from the dialogue.
This was especially true in the dying sergeant's speech and when Macbeth received visions of his future from the three witches.
However, sometimes , modernity detracted from the play. When Duncan is entertained at Macbeth's castle/nightclub, the soundtrack was a touch loud and this drowned out Abi Titmuss's dialogue as Lady Macbeth.
I think the use of a pop music soundtrack to set the scene in a nightclub underestimated the intelligence of the audience who, from early on in the play, would have known this Macbeth was set in the modern world.
Beyond the traditional stage
Rather than being hamstrung by a small venue, the cast were running up and down the gangway by the audience and through the theatre doors into the lobby as well as using the traditional stage exits.
This made the audience feel they were immersed in the action rather than detached from the actors. Similarly, whilst the stage was bare of scenery, the inventive use of props quickly suggested where the characters were.
Titmuss relishing Macbeth role
I felt Abi Titmuss' Lady Macbeth was an understated performance which warmed up later in the play especially when she movingly performed the sleep walking scene.
However, I think there are many other talents which this play showcased. The three witches were especially fresh and possessing and I found Tom Bailey's Murderer and James Rose's Macduff strong.
In essence, this was a memorable production of Macbeth. I would urge anybody to go see it and not just for Abi Titmuss!
This was as intelligent interpretation of Macbeth that we have seen in East Anglia, which, due to its innovative touches, would not be out of place in some of the theatres of London.
Macbeth is touring at the following venues: Lowestoft's Seagull Theatre, Bungay's Fisher Theatre, Open in Norwich, Sudbury Upper School's Arts Centre and ending at The Cut in Halesworth on 4 December 2009. Use the links on the right for further information.
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