Shakespeare, notoriously, wasn't great at writing female roles. Hell Hath No Fury seeks to redress part of that balance, by examining Macbeth from the viewpoint of two women: Lady Macbeth herself, and one of the witches who met her husband on that fateful blasted heath. In the process, it fills in a whole new back-story for the classic plot – picturing a manipulative conspiracy, in which the Lady is far more than the simple opportunist the Bard made her out to be.
In this alternative version, Lady Macbeth survived the events at Dunsinane, and we meet her as a patient in a psychiatric hospital as she explains her role in Duncan's murder. There's a pared-back stylishness to the set, with a pair of carefully-labelled box files representing the Lady and the witch, and actor-playwright Emma Hopkins flits back and forth between the two characters – pulling items of evidence one by one from the files, to illustrate just how their two lives became entwined.
This is an interesting concept, and Hopkins' script does touch on a few of the unanswered questions around Shakespeare's work. But for me – and speaking as one who loves Macbeth – there isn't enough reference to the original text to make the whole project quite stand up. The back-story Hopkins spins is a relatively convoluted one, and there was no true "aha" moment; no point where I found myself thinking that this chain of events, more than any other, leads inexorably to the start of Shakespeare's familiar plot.
And if I'm honest, I found it a little hard to follow. Part of the problem is that the action is relocated to the present-day City, with Duncan represented as a company chairman and Macbeth as an up-and-coming young businessman. (The witch, on the other hand, is still a witch, a brave decision which is surprisingly easy to accept in our Sabrina-inspired age.) I'm usually enthusiastic about creative re-interpretations, but in this case I think it might be a distraction – one more thing to juggle in your head, alongside an already complex set of characters and relationships.
I think what this play really needs is an outside eye; a simplification of the storyline, and some stronger direction to counteract the purposefully lo-fi nature of the set. The over-arching theme of vengeance could be more sharply played – and deserves to be, because it's intriguing that this rewrite throws focus on the female characters yet chooses still to portray them in a far-from-positive light. And when Hopkins does allow a little old-fashioned soliloquy into her script, she shows that she's a convincing actor, more than capable of tackling one of Shakespeare's darkest roles. So I'm afraid this particular production didn't quite work for me – but there's certainly something here worth further developing.