Review: Macbeth, Tobacco Factory

4th September 2015

image by farrows creative

Taking the gravity of a Shakespearian classic and injecting it with the experimentalism of a Sid Barrett era Pink Floyd concert sounds quite the task, but this is what Filter Theatre and Tobacco Factory have skilfully managed to combine in their modernist retelling of the Scottish Play.

Whilst the verse and prose of the performance are as you would expect, its delivery is very much from leftfield. Strobe lights and modern electronic soundscapes have replaced codpieces and Tudor ruffs and all the scenes are cast onto the most minimalist of stages that provides the setting for the inevitable descent into despotic madness.

A raised, square platform, illuminated directly from above by what seem like streetlights, the stage surrounds a pit filled with the mangled, twisted mesh of instruments that is the focal point for the performance. The lighting is masterful throughout, highlighted by a spiralling light show that feels like a game show or Las Vegas casino

Tom Haines’ (composer) hand lays heavy on the shoulder of the actors, guiding them at each corner, as they  all take it in turn to tend to his musical garden, moving between instruments and the stage itself seamlessly. Working with loops, synths, percussion and even a thermin type device it’s an interesting approach. Although it is palpable that music is not many of the actors first loves, their commitment to their craft is all the more admirable.

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In Oliver Dimsdale’s performance you see the timeless tale play out of a decent man corrupted, a man who struggles before evil gets the upper hand. Dimsdale’s Macbeth isn’t a man who just snuffs out the stars, he suffocates his own humanity. Yet, while Oliver’s interpretation owes much to the classic tale, there are constant dashes of the contemporary that pull his performance into the 2010’s. From a dirty club like section that combines recreational drugs and fluorescent lighting, as Macbeth descends like a bad trip, eating a crow with his face daubed in a chalky paste reminiscent of Bob Dylan on the Rolling Thunder tour, to the delivery of his internal monologue via sampled loops played through psychedelic filters, it’s an entirely fresh approach.

Lady Macbeth is also expertly cast, with Poppy Miller providing a convincing portrayal of the vile, heartless, ultimately corrupting and mentally infirm wife of the would be monarch. Once more curious asides assist in differentiating Miller’s Lady Macbeth from previous incarnations, with one notable scene seeing her drawing a target on King Duncan’s chest in gaudy lipstick as the plot thickens.

image by farrows creativeThe supporting cast are also worthy of praise, especially for their distinct depiction of the three witches which is a truly unique and unexpected experience.

Despite some notable lulls in the pace and some questionable movements in the music, this is a venerable and absorbing performance that is entirely worth revisiting.

Get along to the Tobacco Factory and see why this is certainly not much ado about nothing, by clicking here.


By Kevin McGough

Photos By Farrows Creative