Flabbergast Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s tragedy is a brave failure. The show is full of arresting imagery and committed performances – it is bold from start to finish. But a central conceit is hard to pin down and uncomfortably constraining… Macbeth in a madhouse seems close to describing what’s going on. That the idea turns out less interesting than it sounds is a shame, given the tremendous effort of all involved.
Linking Macbeth to insanity isn’t a bad idea. Fits are mentioned, there are famous hallucinations, and the banqueting scene is ripe for such an interpretation. Can the witches be mad? Of course, they’ve been everything else in various productions. And the suggestion that Banquo’s murderer is schizophrenic is a good touch. But the whole idea does, forgive me, straitjacket the play. It’s scary and unpredictable (an achievement of sorts) but it is hard to take the drama seriously as connections between the characters are severed. While the ensemble work together well, the characters seem isolated in individual trauma.
Henry Maynard’s direction is aided by work with movement from Matej Majeka which is often interesting. The whole ensemble impress, not least with some of their backbends. Everyone is on stage a lot and never loses focus. The musical arrangements from Adam Clifford make great use of percussion and the ensemble are a good choir. The small amount of puppetry that features is worth noting. But every aspect of the show is exaggerated and that turns into a serious flaw.
There are technical problems too. The production fails to consider the venue’s thrust stage so that two thirds of the audience are ignored too often. Above all, hearing what anyone is saying is very difficult. Taking the lead role, Maynard tries hard but it is really only Kyll Thomas-Cole’s Malcolm we get to hear properly. There’s no way you’d know what was going on without a thorough knowledge of the play and while the company can be proud of its energy, that makes the effort here wasted.
Until 8 April 2023
Photo by Picturegrafix