Far from foul and certainly fair – Macbeth review

What’s more to want on my Wednesday afternoon than treachery, murder and treason? Merely Theatre certainly provided all that and more with their stunning and emotional depiction of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’.

I have to start off by saying this play is so relatable in recent times and not just because Merely Theatre decided to keep it hip and down with the kids by dressing their actors in costumes ranging from modern military uniform to ‘that guy at the party who’s not sharp enough to be interesting so he wore a clown hat’. Macbeth’s tale of a mad and tyrannical leader who conned his way to the top only to find a divided country at his fingertips certainly resonates with audiences in these trying times – however, unlike modern day leader’s propensity for embarrassing Twitter mistakes, verbal gold really does roll off the tongues of these (quite clearly) veteran Shakespeare actors. Macbeth is played by the fantastic Simon Grujich who leads the way into this fast paced and condensed version of the classic joined by the equally talented Emmy Rose as Lady Macbeth.

Going straight into the production, it was clear to me the scenes that would really shine are (as is possibly always the case with Shakespeare) the monologues, and we’re soon confronted with one after the witches inform Macbeth of his timely fate and I say confronted with the truest meaning of the word – every monologue, every interaction, every moment in this play feels like a confrontation which I imagine has been painstakingly designed and engineered by director Abigail Anderson to purposefully reflect Macbeth’s ongoing confrontation with not just himself but his country, his friends and even his own wife. I was actually surprised at my own emotional conflict towards the scenes featuring Simon Grujich and Emmy Rose; their chemistry is palpable and whereas on paper the manipulation of Macbeth by his Lady is obvious, their performance makes it so much more subtle and you get the feeling that there really is love between the characters which soon after becomes twisted and poisoned with both ambition and eventually, after the deed is done, crippling paranoia.

I’m hesitant to sing the praises of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth too much as it’s easy to get trapped into a mindset where you think only about those characters, which is of course, what those characters do themselves but it’s also more than worth mentioning that every character in this play was superb. MacDuff (Jennifer Shakesby) was a personal favourite and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was really moved during the scene in which he is informed about the death of his family. To the tune of singing characters praises, I was in a unique position where I was watching Macbeth for the umpteenth time and yet this is the first watch I genuinely really enjoyed the scene with the janitor (Andrew Hislop) – it serves as a much needed break from pace and intensity and I think Anderson really understood that as the point of the scene, get the audience giggling and winding down a bit before the proverbial crap hits the fan at the discovery of the deceased king Duncan (Also Andrew Hislop) and we’re thrust back into the action.

In terms of trying to provide some objectivity and make myself not sound like a newly birthed Merely Theatre fanboy (I am), I will say that for me the choice of modern costumes and keeping the Shakespearean dialogue was a bit of an odd one; I’m not really sure of the advantage because it didn’t seem to affect the play in really any measurable way (apart from the fact that the incredible scene with Banquo’s ghost appearing at the dinner party which in this version is soundtracked by The Prodigy was overlooked, literally, by Hislop’s clown hat which was somewhat jarring – I had to spend a solid thirty seconds working out of Macbeth’s breakdown was because of the guilt ghost or because of the OTT try-hard party outfits). I guess that the idea might be to make the characters backgrounds clearer for children who have trouble with the language, maybe? It didn’t mar the experience really I just didn’t quite ‘get’ the move.

On the whole this production is fast paced, intense and yet doesn’t need to compromise on the iconic story to deliver edge of your seat stuff. 5 stars for Merely Theatre’s Macbeth, certainly a must watch.