‘Guy Retallack’s Macbeth turns the venue’s constraints into virtues and is well-deserving of its two Offie nominations.’
It is difficult not to be apprehensive when attending Shakespeare performed in a theatre crammed into a small room over a busy pub, yet with Guy Retallack’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s cursed Scottish tragedy, one has no need for such reservations. Performed in the round, both director and cast shine in this truly immersive production.
Using the confined space to their advantage, the cast frequently interact with the close audience, holding eye contact from a foot away, occasionally chinking glasses or stroking knees. As a result, audience members are elevated to more than mere spectators, monologues become thoroughly engaging, and attention is easily held.
The constrictions of the theatre lend themselves to a minimalist adaptation, and the set is imaginatively designed with this is mind. A few stools, a small throne, and some flexible fold-up tables compliment the simple costumes effectively, and ensure the audience is entirely focused on the performances.
Craig Daniel Adams is convincing as the eponymous protagonist; his madness manifests itself early on and convincingly increasing throughout. Thea Beyleveld is similarly convincing as Lady Macbeth, and her ‘Out, damn spot’ monologue is captivating. The infamous duo’s relationship is somewhat lacking in dynamism, however. Alain Turzoli plays an assured Banquo but The supporting cast suffer slightly from a lack of character development, although the three witches are entertainingly sinister.
Retallack’s direction gives the production an enjoyable early pace that dawdles slightly during the second half, allowing the the refreshing flow to dissipate. The final scenes, however, are alive with energy, and the confrontation between Macbeth and Macduff, with its exuberant swordplay, is particularly effective.
The show has been nominated for two Off West End Awards (Offies) and thoroughly deserves this recognition. Most memorable though, is the creative use of the cramped space, and the effective conversion of the theatre’s potential constraints into laudable virtues.