Pros: The lights, sounds and effects set the perfect eerie, fearsome and supernatural world for the play to take place.
Cons: A quite abridged version was used, which could be hard to follow for those less familiar with the story.
Just out of the heart of Hoxton, who knew you’d find a blend of past and present sitting on the corner of Pitfield Street. Housed in a former public library, The Courtyard Theatre, which also incorporates a theatre school, offers several versatile stages and a bar. The Main House, a black box space set up in the round was our stage for Prowl Theatre’s production of the Scottish tragedy Macbeth.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, our story concerns Macbeth, a royal Scottish thane, his thirst for power and quest to become king. Stumbling across three witches, he hears a prophesy that he is to be king, after which he (and his wife) will stop at nothing short of killing everyone in their path to get there. Full of mystical magic, power struggles, blood and gore, we see how Macbeth becomes king, who he has to cut through to get there, and how those who he has wronged ultimately enact their revenge and end the terror. To be quite honest, not one of my favourite stories from the Bard.
This production, cut down to just about 75 minutes, is quite an abridged version of the story. This condensed version, set in modern day, may be difficult to follow for those who are unfamiliar with the story. If you are familiar with the story, the point comes across and you are quite thankful that the fat has been trimmed.
A cast of seven actors play all the main parts, with the three witches doubling as smaller roles. Although they worked together well, I felt some scenes lacked emotion and immediacy as regards how and why the characters needed to act. Macduff (Harry Belcher) displays well thought-out passion when needed the most. Lady Macbeth (Sophie Spreadbury) is convincingly power-hungry, but redeems herself in her brilliant fit of madness. The highlights are the three witches (Hélène Kösom, Greta Way, Bethan Johns) with their ability to frighten, dedication to their characters, and flexibility in switching from one to the next. I only wished they had enunciated more amongst their scary cackles. Tom Durant-Pritchard filled a tall order as the title character, but might have taken on too much as the show’s director as well.
This particular production uses no set and minimal props, but has plenty of ambiance. Maybe I’m just an easy scare, but Edward Nash’s choice of a soft, creepy music box theme to start the show from a blackout, set the hairs on the back of the neck on end. Vittorrio Verta’s lighting design helped bring the audience’s focus to what needed it most, while helping to distinguish the real from the supernatural. The blood, as a stage element is well used (not too much, but not ignored) and adds to the eeriness.
Prowl Theatre create the world of Macbeth with commitment, artistry and effort. It’s worth a watch, but lacks some depth and clarity.
Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Tom Durant-Pritchard & Edward Nash
Lighting Designer: Vitorrio Verta
Sound Designer: Edward Nash
Producer: Prowl Theatre
Box Office: 020 7729 2202
Booking Link: http://www.thecourtyard.org.uk/whatson/728/macbeth
Booking Until: 27 August 2016