A busy scene greets us at the start of Fall, a loose but respectful retelling of the story of Macbeth. The setting's recognisable from a dozen movies: we're on the trading floor of a City bank, where driven-looking men and women with phones glued to their ears bellow their orders to buy and sell shares. It's some time in the eighties. We can tell it's the eighties by the clothes, by the music in the background… but most of all, sitting in pride of place, by the Rubik's cube.
The Rubik's cube, to be honest, is a bit of an overworked metaphor, but everything else about this creative adaptation is conceived and executed with finesse. In Entita Theatre's alternative interpretation, Macbeth's descent from valour to villainy is represented not by a thirst for blood, but a penchant for insider trading. There are comforting echoes of familiar Shakespearean lines, but this is, predominantly, a brand-new script – which uses economical language alongside mesmerising physical movement, to tell a recognisable but subtly altered tale.
The physical devices, while often stunning, are never there for their own sake; every one of them serves to advance and reinforce the plot. One repeated motif sees Macbeth wrapped up in telephone wires, literally entangled in the agent of his own sin. Another beautiful, economical scene captures the increasing distance between Macbeth and his wife, and the pair's silent meeting in the aftermath of Duncan's murder is a particularly finely-tuned moment – their expressions eloquently capture both shock and excitement at the magnitude of the crime.
Shakespeare's oh-so-familiar set-piece scenes are mostly there, but benefit from a free-handed and imaginative rework. The spectre at the feast is especially cleverly conceived, and by itself would be enough to validate both the City-slicker concept and the physical performance style. Lady Macbeth's bedchamber scene gets a thorough rewrite too, with just enough hand-wringing to tie it to Shakespeare's text, but offering a convincing new reason for her decision to end it all.
So Entita Theatre have plenty of confidence, and an abundance of talent too. What they don't quite have – yet – is that sense that they never miss a beat, the feeling of effortless cohesion that the very best companies achieve. Some of the vocal performances are also a little underwhelming, especially towards the start, when more minor characters are left to carry the weight of the plot. But my main beef is with the ending, which feels strangely abrupt; even though it's carefully set up in an earlier scene, Birnam Wood never does quite make it to Dunsinane.
Shakespeare aficionados can also debate how freely they've meddled with Macbeth's motivations. Duncan's and Banquo's murders are both committed, if not exactly by accident, certainly without pre-meditation; and when they've made a change that fundamental, is this really still Macbeth? I'm not entirely sure. But by the very act of posing that question, they've done what they presumably set out to: made me take a fresh look at this most familiar of plots, and in the process uncovered something genuinely exciting and new.