Bell Shakespeare presents yet another classic with their new rendition of Macbeth at the Arts Centre.
There were a large number of students in attendance, eager to see the performance. The timeless Shakespeare play is currently part of the Year Eleven English curriculum, which made it a fantastic time to restage the work.
The intimate atmosphere of the Playhouse Theatre allows the audience to feel close and involved in the tragedy before them. Above the rugged set, made of grassy tufts and gravelly stone, a tilted mirror looks down upon the stage. This adds another dimension to the performance, emphasising the contemporary nature of this adaptation.
The play begins with Macbeth’s confrontation with three witches who prophesy that Macbeth will earn a new title and later become king. His close friend Banquo, they tell him, will be father to future kings.
We soon see the first part of the prophecy fulfilled, when Macbeth is acknowledged for his loyal service in battle. He and his treacherous wife then scheme to kill King Duncan. At the news of his father’s death, King Duncan’s heir Malcolm flees and leaves Macbeth to be king. Wanting to circumvent the second part of the prophecy, Macbeth kills his dear friend Banquo and is chillingly revisited by his ghost.
The witches return to warn him of Macduff, a nobleman who has fled to England. Malcolm and Macduff raise an army to conquer Macbeth, who believes that he is unbeatable. As the battle draws near, Macbeth hears terrible news of his wife’s death, learning that the prophecy is not what it had initially seemed.
The prologue is delivered in a distorted, haunting voice, with the witch’s squirming body projected onto the shadowy mirror amid a pitch black stage. Her presence remains constant throughout the play; the distinctive black line painted vertically down her body keeps appearing in several different characters.
Bell Shakespeare’s adaptation bubbles with energy and action in every scene. The vivid turquoise and gold costumes of the soldiers and the burnt orange gowns of Lady Macbeth shine a vivacious spotlight on each character. As they converge upon the unchanging set, these bold costumes bring the ancient tale of Macbeth into the present day.
A thudding, crackling echo resounds behind the traumatic soliloquies, evoking a mood of desperation. Conversely, bouts of classical strings and orchestral snippets accompany the banquet scene that resonate through the theatre.
Realistic blood drips from Macbeth’s hands after the slaughtering, also splattered across Banquo’s chest. Lady Macbeth’s charismatic presence and drawling voice captivates the audience, drawing them into the treason that she so cunningly plots. The small cast are energetic and exciting to watch.
Bell Shakespeare’s latest adaptation of Macbeth shines a contemporary light on a classic tale of treachery.
Macbeth will be performed at the Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre until June 232012. For bookings or further information, visit artscentremelbourne.com.au.