Performed and created by young artists from Hackney, this version of Macbeth is intended to bring Shakespeare’s tale to a new audience. And surprisingly, I’ve never seen a full production of Macbeth, so I was able to approach the adaptation with a fresh pair of eyes. Don’t get me wrong – of course I knew the basic plot, the Witches prophesising that Macbeth would be King – but the full detail of the story was new to me. And after the opening song, I was quick to realise this would also be very different from any other Shakespeare play I’d seen.
In this particular adaptation, we’re introduced to a music label in London, relating a very modern scenario to an old story. “Cawdor Record Company” is the main setting, where – instead of fighting for the crown – the characters’ greed is focussed on the question of who is to be C.E.O. The core elements of ambition achieved through murder still remain, but the environment is much more suited to this generation’s audience.
There’s no doubting the energy on display throughout this production, and there’s a great group dynamic between the actors during their musical performances. The choreography was edgy and clean. The iconic line “Fair is foul and foul is fair” is now a lyric in an upbeat number performed by the trio of Witches, while the song “Be A Man”, which Lady Macbeth sings to her husband, reveals their intense relationship while staying true to the jazzy street style of the play. For me, it’s the music that stands out most in this production, setting the modern tone and showing the range of skills possessed by these talented individuals.
The actors made the most of the chance to develop their characters in the quieter scenes, for example between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. But with a large cast, at times the stage was very busy, and I felt there was still some work to be done adjusting to their restricted space. I attended one of the first showings and there were one or two notable errors, as microphone stands fell over and cables got in the way. The actors recovered faultlessly, however, and I have no doubt the show will run more smoothly as the Fringe progresses.
If, like me, you knew little of the story in advance, the changes between modern and Shakespearean language might help you to understand what’s happening. Yet despite this, I still found myself having to guess many of the characters’ identities and just what they had to do with the storyline. Macbeth’s key relationships are well established, but that isn’t much help when you don’t know who he’s talking to. I recognised the famous lines but I wouldn’t consider it easy-watching when I was piecing together the plot.
Nonetheless, this performance of Macbeth achieves a feel-good atmosphere through its musical numbers and upbeat energy. This group will ease into their roles though time, but have already achieved a lot in combining a modern scenario with Shakespeare’s story.