You'd be forgiven for melting into a hysterical mess at the mere mention of Shakespeare or any of his merry men: Othello, Romeo, Baptista...a little post traumatic stress from your year 12 English class days we presume, but Montague Basement has offered up an altogether concise, gritty and stripped interpretation of Macbeth, which feels relevant in its minimalism to a generation far removed from the original era.
Directed by, Saro Lusty-Cavallari, with a tight and talented cast; the themes of power, virility and unwelcome consequence are strengthened by Lusty-Cavallari's directions and intentions, which lead us to realise the desire, or perhaps necessity, to seek a reflection of our presence in a world neither here nor there.
There is a brief moment, as you enter, where you expect to become a voyeur of this world only after the lights have gone down. This disappears when you see a girl in white lying facedown; blood is seeping from her forehead and the underneath of her feet are blackened by the theatre floor.
At once you wonder: who is she? What does she want from us? Without realising, you are already involved in the performance.
Lulu Howes’ ethereal performance as singular figure representative of the three Witches is exceptional, executing her role with fervour and unfaltering concentration. As the theatre is shrouded in darkness, Howes angles a torch upwards beneath her chin and illuminates the very thing that frightens us: a physical representation of nothing. Though perhaps unintentional, the temperature in the room drops and as she speaks to the audience both verbally and subconsciously, we believe that she wants us to hear tales from “over there”, and so we listen. We listen well.
The set appears as a clever representation of the all too familiar good/bad, light/dark, up/down dichotomy. A table with cloth that is one part black, one part white, steadies a room lined with plastic sheet; you’d be forgiven for feeling like you’d stepped into an episode of Dexter. This clinical dressing becomes increasingly menacing after blood pools viscously along the floor, and the actors throw wine against the sheets at Duncan’s last supper.
Robert Boddington’s Macbeth is a physically demanding presence and with a resonant voice that can at times be overwhelming, does well to highlight the increasing lengths of manic aspiration that eventually unfolds. Hannah Cox’s Lady Macbeth stands by his side not in shadow, but as an equal player in this man’s world and guides us through with her resilience and grit.
"You’d be forgiven for feeling like you’d stepped into an episode of Dexter."
Travis Ash is quick and light in his portrayal of Duncan, and it is clear that he is an exceptionally capable actor. A sense of quiet authority emphasises his control and understanding of the theatre, invoking an inquisitive focus from the audience, as Barret Griffin and Jem Rowe deliver sturdy reliability and consistent pace to Ross and Malcolm.
Alex Anne Francis casts a believable Banquo, and holds her own as a masculine figure. We later see her stripped to her underpants, standing in a can covered in slime and blood. There aren’t many who would dare to be half naked on stage in such a vile visualisation, and so her braveness and boldness is commendable.
Lusty-Cavallari has turned the traditional framework of this classic play on its side, offering up a raw and visually stunning performance that might finally cure your fear of ye olde theatre.
So do yourself a favour and go and support independent theatre. Wander through the gates of Shakespearian wonder. Drag your fine bodies to the final show of something dark and wicked that for the best, has this way come.
GET TICKETS TO FRIDAY AND SATURDAY PERFORMANCES HERE. (Sorry for yelling).
MACBETH by William Shakespeare
Directed & Designed by Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Produced by Imogen Gardam
Alex Anne Francis - Banquo
Travis Ash - Duncan
Robert Boddington - Macbeth
Hannah Cox - Lady Macbeth
Barret Griffin - Ross
Lulu Howes - Witch
Jem Rowe - Malcolm
Artwork by Hannah Cox
Photographs by Zaina Ahmed