The New Theatre, Cardiff, is showing both Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream this week – productions by The Watermill Theatre company, a group known for their bold approach and for instilling their unique stamp on everything from Shakespeare to classic musicals and brand new writing.
In this version of Macbeth, expect to see everything from a backdrop that ‘bleeds’ to grows trees, dramatic lighting, ghostly projections and actor-musicians taking to the stage with their guitars to sing songs as diverse as Johnny Cash’s Hurt and The Animals’ House of The Rising Sun to The Glass Animals’ The Other Side of Paradise and Stormzy’s Crown, plus – of all things – Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’ which sounds out as the bizarre backdrop to the murder of Duncan in his bed. It’s a brave and gutsy new take and it works.
Away from the battlefield, the action takes place in a war-damaged Macbeth’s hotel – the lit sign of which extinguishes its ‘o’ and ‘t’ to reveal the murderish h_el that will take place within its walls.
Billy Postletwaite commands the stage with his presence as a towering, unravelling Macbeth and Emma McDonald is remarkable as his strong, sexual and power-hungry wife, who becomes broken in the sleepwalking scene.
Lucy Keirl brings some light comic relief to her role as the porter and the rest of the cast are strong and energetic and move around the stage with passion, vibrancy and quick, adept costume changes as they take on multiple roles.
Some Shakespeare stalwarts might feel disappointed that the witches’ scenes are altered from the original text, but the sense of menace and fizzing energy of doom is still there. In bucket loads.
Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (performed by the same cast) is on at the New Theatre until 12 October. For more information, visit newtheatrecardiff.co.uk
Photo credits: Pamela Raith