Macbeth at the Drama Barn

Drama Society presented their latest revamped student production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a two-hour tragedy that had the entire Drama Barn gripped with anticipation.

Considered one of Shakespeare’s darkest works, the play is dominated by corruption, tyranny and masculinity. Director Wilem Powell used his talent to capture these themes whilst setting the tragedy in a Guantanamo Bay styled prison to reflect how its story can relate to the age of terrorism. The audience is thrust into this prison in the opening scene where the three witches are dressed in orange jumpsuits, hands tied and black bags over their heads. From here, the audience is taken into a creatively ambitious production of Macbeth.

 The audience is thrust into this prison in the opening scene where the three witches are dressed in orange jumpsuits, hands tied and black bags over their heads

The first half tended towards an accelerated pace as many scenes were excluded – especially during the unfolding of events, such as Banquo’s death – so that the play could be condensed into two hours. Thus, general knowledge is presupposed as if you were not already acquainted with Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it would have been difficult to follow the plot perfectly. The rapid dialogues, whilst excellently executed by the cast, are overwhelming until you become acquainted with the characters. The second half, on the other hand, featured slower paced scenes that helped to improve precision and clarity of the story. The two main forces in this half, Macbeth and Macduff (Jamie Bowman) gripped the audience until the final flame was extinguished (quite literally).

The eighteen man cast operated in a slick and captivating manner. The chemistry between Tim Kelly and Saffia Sage as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is hypnotising. The changes in their relationship between the first and second halves aptly captured the unravelling of these two characters. Sage’s performance mastered her character’s inner-turmoil between a desire for masculinity and sensitivity. Disappointment arose when her famous descent into madness was cut short, but the part preserved was executed by her beautifully. Kelly’s portrayal of Macbeth hit the perfect notes and his progression as a more masculine and cruel force towards the end pertinently underlined his character’s ascension to power.

The use of live cameras was a visually genius move, capturing the characters exiting and entering the main stage, a feature that created a sense of constant surveillance

The minimal, but precise setup of the stage kept the focus on the cast and the cameras that were used underlined poignant moments. The use of live cameras was a visually genius move, capturing the characters exiting and entering the main stage, a feature that created a sense of constant surveillance. It was reminiscent of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s filmed production of Hamlet (2009), which was also set in a modern state and used security cameras to underline the concept of constant surveillance.

Showing at the Drama Barn until Sunday, Macbeth is an exciting and visually thrilling entertainment that is worth visiting for the evening. Walking out, I noticed numerous members of the audience recounting the moments of the play that had enthralled them most. A highly entertaining performance throughout, it also succeeds in showing how the themes of Macbeth that Shakespeare published in 1623 transcends space and time and continues to find relevance in our modern age of security and surveillance.

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