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  • Flora Gosling

Review: The Tragedy of Macbeth (Assembly Roxy)

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

A bold Shakespearean production that accentuates the evil

The most disturbing line in Macbeth is easily the “dashed the brains out” quote from act one scene seven. It’s when Lady Macbeth chastises Macbeth for not keeping to his word, and insists that she would have murdered her own baby if she had promised to do so. It sets a benchmark for the play – whatever direction your company or director chooses, it has to be at least dark enough that the “dashed the brains out” quote doesn’t throw it completely. In The Tragedy of Macbeth, it is as though Flabbergast Theatre started at that quote and worked outwards.

Photo Credit: PictureGrafix

It is a performance that is intense, physical, and has a very distinctive aesthetic. The whole cast are dressed in baggy white dungarees and covered in chalky powder and clay, making them appear wild and otherworldly. Even more dramatic than their appearance is their movement, which is dancerly and violent. This is especially true of Simon Gleave as Macbeth, whose movement is like a captivating cross between a Haka and ballet. But even though Flabbergast’s theatrical vision is slathered all over the performance, you can still see the important emotions and characteristics of his character shining through: the distrust, the weakness, the ambition, it’s all there.

The cast as a whole is incredibly coherent, and it is their commitment to the world they are creating on stage that makes it work. This adaptation is very witch-centric – no matter what happens they are always lurking in the background, even mouthing along as they manipulate messengers communicating with Macbeth. They also specialise in bringing horrifying imagery to the stage, for example the chilling appearance of Banquo during the banquet scene, which is shown far more from the maddened perspective of Macbeth than from the baffled perspective of the guests.

This approach to the production does what any good Shakespeare production should do – bring the most out of the text without overshadowing it. This brutal style works for Macbeth because it is a play without much softness, but it is not so dark that performing it so savagely would be to point out the obvious like it would for Titus Andronicus. In a Fringe (and, honestly, a country) awash with productions of Macbeth, this is one with a point of view, and it will cling to you like cakey, dried cray on your skin. Four stars.

Whispers from the Crowd: "I thought it was fantastic!" "It was angry and musical and confusing in a fun way." "I knew what was going on by the end, not at the beginning" "oh that's funny, I thought the opposite; I knew what was going on at the beginning but not the end."

The Tragedy of Macbeth has completed its run at Assembly Roxy


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