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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at Stratford Theatre


  Jonathan Slinger and AislĂ­n McGuckin/ Ph: Ellie Kurttz

Macbeth is the first new show at the revamped Stratford Theatre, which is comfortable – but not too comfy – with seats designed by Ferrari the car company. The new auditorium, cunningly encased in the shell of the 1932 building, has a thrust stage so that the audience is stacked on three sides.
It feels much more intimate, less like a cinema (the big complaint about the old building). It also is much less formal, since the actors are virtually among the audience, giving the theatre the two-way conversational dynamic of a much smaller theatre. 
The idea was to bring, as Michael Boyd, the boss and director of this Macbeth, put it, “some recognizable human behaviour” to the acting on stage. I suppose what he meant by that is that he would at last rid the company – this is its 50th anniversary season – once and for all of the classical histrionics of the past.
Macbeth is a very bold start – and a controversial one. It has no witches. Instead you get small kids, suspended on ropes. They are referred to as “the weird children.” I was left poised halfway between excitement at this innovation and disappointment at the sad lack of the "midnight hags." Macbeth without witches is, surely, like Peter Pan without Captain Hook.
This busy production, set among the smashed icons of a ruined church, has its own logic. Three cellists saw away at their instruments up in a gallery. Tom Piper’s designs of defaced frescoes, smashed stained glass and piles of onstage rubble lend a fascinating air of spiritual vandalism to the evening.
Jonathan Slinger's Macbeth is a wonderfully crazed, bleach-haired psycho-thane. Slinger is egged on by Aislin McGuckin as his steely queen. The ghost of Banquo (Steve Toussaint with gory dreadlocks) slits his throat at the fantasy dinner scene – very nasty. Aidan Kelly’s fierce Macduff is not a man to cross swords with, and Jamie Beamish’s Porter reveals dynamite strapped to himself, a sort of Guy Fawkes-cum-Muslim terrorist variety act.
If you can live without the wonderfully atmospheric opening, this is a taut, exciting Macbeth with lashings of blood, bold stage effects and a true sense of atrocity. The pace is as taut as a good thriller should be and as a company test drive for the new theatre, it holds up well. 


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