Fusing together elements of Eastern and Western physical theatre and dance, Ryukyu Cirque’s Clown Macbeth is a compelling and polished take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Director and performer Makoto Inoue, along with Ryukyu dancer Riko Sugama, perform against a backdrop of red ribbons which become doorways, hidden passageways and traps. Life and death, success and failure, are intertwined in this production with the ribbon entrapping Macbeth as easily as slipping through his fingers. Everything is symbolic, for instance King Duncan, his power and murder, becomes a top hat worn by both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
This is an unspoken performance, though the soundscape of over a thousand effects sets the scene, the tone and even Macbeth’s character. The depth of the soundscape creates a world in which the witches’ – cackling over the speakers – murders and contradictions in character are brought into being on a bare stage. Inoue’s Macbeth is a Pierrot-like automaton, coerced into action by the forces around him. His characterisation is fluid; Inoue transforms from a warlord to a fragile man, embodying different facets of the Thane. Clown Macbeth focuses on Macbeth as a character, teasing out aspects of character and motivation. Lady Macbeth is largely absent from the action, though she appears to orchestrate the plot, setting props and standing by at pertinent times.
The performers are at all times precise and determined in their movements. Turning a wheel, murdering King Duncan- every action is performed with a meticulous accuracy. Sugama in particular is hypnotic in her controlled Ryukyu movements, using restrained arm and hand movements to characterise Lady Macbeth. Whilst the narrative sometimes seems vague rather than ambiguous, it is possible to follow the story to a moving conclusion, which diverts from the ending of Shakespeare’s original with a powerful finish.
This is a relatively short piece which chooses its movements precisely so that nothing is lost. Ambiguous gestures and turns allow for a multitude of interpretations over the pacy 50 minutes. With its strong shapes, tableaux and symbols, Ryukyu Cirque’s Clown Macbeth isn’t simply dance, it is a beautiful piece of visual art.
Clown Macbeth is playing at C (Venue 34) from 8-31 August 2015 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.