I’ve crossed paths with the story of Macbeth at various times over the years, from GCSE English studies to acting exams, to the inevitable encounters with Shakespeare as a result of studying theatre at Warwick. However, I had unfortunately never seen it live before, until I was lucky enough to get to see the Loft Theatre’s production in Leamington Spa.
One of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays, Macbeth, follows the story of Macbeth and his wife desperately clamouring for power after three witches prophesied Macbeth’s ascent to the Scottish throne. Among the countless adaptations of Macbeth, I found this to be a refreshing and compelling take on the story that deliberately departed from the original 11th century Scotland setting. With that being said, I found the setting to be ambiguous, unsure about how far back to date it or where to place it. Personally, I don’t mind not anchoring historical context to it; it gives the freedom to enjoy the production without worrying about potential inaccuracies.
There were some inventive and symbolic uses of the platforms
The performances of the Ladies in this production stood out to me. Poor Lady Macduff, whose only scene consists of the demise of herself and her son, was harrowing to watch. It’s a great shame that Shakespeare specifically crafted her as a martyr for her husband to then take action, yet Sophie Jasmin Bird gave it her all in this role. The complexity of Lady Macduff processing her inevitable murder while trying to be there for her son haunted me.
Notably for this production, the son was acted out through puppetry rather than hav- ing a child actor; Bird’s interactions with the puppet were really well executed. Although the choice of having a puppet was likely for practical reasons, it served thematic purposes as well, emphasising the helplessness of the son’s situation and how everything is out of his control.
Julie Godfrey’s Lady Macbeth is also a force to be reckoned with. Godfrey demonstrates a strong sense of self-control, with Lady Macbeth’s actions feeling very carefully curated and restrained, and her moments of outbursts then clearly derive from a place of desperation. There is an obvious love between Lady Macbeth and her husband in this production (oftentimes their connection is sacrificed for exploring other plot elements), and there is an obvious physical intimacy. However, this intimacy is cleverly conditional. Their moments of physical connection are during times where Lady Macbeth is trying to reassure her husband or trying to coax him into her plans; in stark contrast, she is notably withdrawn from Macbeth when the annoyance and frustration bubble over.
Then there’s the titular character of Macbeth. The production intentionally focuses on his mental deterioration more so than his capacity for evil, which is evident in Mark Crossley’s portrayal. Crossley is eerie in his monologues, successfully physically embodying Macbeth’s emotional turmoil. Unfortunately, it was perhaps too far. While he had great stage presence and clearly gave it his all for this role, I believe it a shame to overlook the complexity of the evils at play, particularly when the performance misaligned with the director’s intent. Director, David Fletcher, in the director’s notes section of the production’s programme, claims not to see it as “a descent into insanity”. Yet that’s how it is performed. Although each of Macbeth’s monologues are well performed, they’re sadly too similar.
Despite those small gripes with intent, I was fully engrossed in the performance
Fletcher also expresses insistence on the three witches being part of the community. Usually, the witches are isolated from the rest of the story and only appear when interacting with Macbeth; this production carefully embeds them into the setting, working as servants around the castle. Though constantly present, they remain unnoticed until Macbeth actively seeks them out regarding his fate. Having the trio so different from their usual fantastical and maniacal selves was an interesting choice, and it emphasises the agency Macbeth had, and that ultimately- ly the choices he made were his responsibility. However, this perhaps clashes with the presentation of Macbeth himself.
Despite those small gripes with intent, I was fully engrossed in the performance. With a wonderful cast, great pacing, and Duncan’s demise being prefaced with a porter telling knock-knock jokes, it’s truly a production I implore you to go and support if you can. Check out the Loft Theatre Company for more information regarding Macbeth and any of their future endeavours.