REVIEW – Macbeth (HOME, Manchester)

John Heffernan and Anna Maxwell in Macbeth at HOME, Manchester
© Richard Hubert Smith
Date: 2 February 2016
Upstaged Rating: 

 2016 marks the 400th anniversary year of William Shakespeare’s death and so it seems fitting that HOME are kicking off their new season with an intense, engaging and unsettling adaptation of the Bard’s Macbeth.

Directed by Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin, this production is startlingly different to any other versions of Macbeth I have seen before. It’s a highly visual production exploring the main themes of Macbeth’s breakdown and the supernatural through a fusion of Shakespeare’s original words and stunning choreography.

The stage is set like a concrete tunnel – there is no muddy battlefield and death does not occur by the sword. Lizzie Clachan’s claustrophobic but clever set design shifts and opens to reveal torture rooms where executions are carried out by suffocation or electrocution. Bodies wrapped in plastic bags and duct tape are moved about the stage; plastic bags are used to suffocate and transparent plastic suits are worn by the soldiers. There is a lot of plastic used in this production – even the tablecloth in the banquet scene is sterile, wipe-down plastic – all fully suggestive of the unnatural world that Macbeth inhabits and the supernatural theme running through the original text.

The Witches -Clemmie Sveaas, Jessie Oshodi and Ana Beattriz Meireles
© Richard Hubert Smith

Neil Austin’s eerie lighting design really intensifies the production, clinical blue-white lights cast menacing silhouettes and flash lighting reveals bursts of violence and brutality. Lurking in the depths are the three Witches Ana Beatriz Meireles, Jessie Oshodi and Clemmie Sveaas. A dominant force, they use little speech but contort and glide unpredictably about the stage – the few words and sounds they make are woven into their fluid movements. And this production is at its best when the text and movement are fully integrated.

John Heffernan impresses as Macbeth, his physicality perfectly representative of a man overrun by mania. Fully committed to the requirements of this adaptation – from the erratic behaviour and uncontrollable laughter in the banquet scene to the measured low pitch tone of his soliloquies. Anna Maxwell Martin’s Lady Macbeth is cool, sensual and pleasingly peculiar but at times appears constricted by the Shakespearean verse.

This is an engaging, unsettling and scary reimagining of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The elements of movement and dance are the real merit of this production – high quality and executed powerfully. Compelling choreography to the beat of the iambic pentameter.

-Kristy Stott

Macbeth is on at HOME, Manchester (2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN) until Saturday 6th February 2016 and you can click here for tickets.