It’s bitterly cold outside and the ice settling on my skin doesn’t abate as I take my seat in Wilton’s Music Hall. It’s dark, cold and perfectly eerie. Fog snakes across the room and a quiet, but unsettling, music completes the scene of Mark Bruce’s new Macbeth adaptation.
Macbeth is a sinister play, and it’s also one of Shakespeare’s most famous, with new adaptations popping up every few months. Mark Bruce Company promises something different. A dance interpretation accompanied by a dramatically varying score; from Avro Part and Sonic Youth to Schubert and Webern.
A stroke of lightning hits the otherwise pitch black stage and mysteriously the witches are with us as if from nowhere. Dressed in black, they prowl the stage, sometimes seeming omnipotent and at other times seeming mere conduits for a higher power. Their movements are highly sexualised, accentuated by their leather apparel. When they meet Banquo and Macbeth, they stalk slowly towards the men, sinking to their knees before delivering the prophecy.
The lack of any dialogue generates a complete dependency on body language and facial expression. The lighting is unforgiving on the character’s faces, creating a harshness to their expressions which highlights the brutality of the play. Lady Macbeth in particular, played with an unhinged wickedness by Eleanor Duval, cuts a mean figure across the stage. Her movements are lithe and beautiful, although I do miss some of her more sharp and memorable lines. Duval miming ripping a child from her breast or simply grabbing at the front of her dress, whilst recognisable as a facsimile of the ‘unsex me’ and infant killing lines, does not begin to do them justice.
Jonathan Goddard cuts a fearsome figure as Macbeth, and his initial struggle to see what is right is painted beautifully across the stage. I wanted to see more unrestrained movement from him. When he kills the King, the shift in him is palpable. Goddard reveals his real relationship with violence in the shockingly callous murder of the King’s guards.
The set is another unspeaking character. Phil Eddolls’ set is highly symbolic; barren and shadowy. It’s dark, and the nine dancers blend well with the set before flashing into existence when required. Small lights burning at the back of the stage illuminate subtle castle cut outs, and give the whole play a feeling of depth and space.
It’s not a dazzlingly new performance, and some of the prop elements feel like unnecessary gothic signposts, (weird dolls, raven, etc.), but I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The music and lighting (designed by Guy Hoare) set off the stage perfectly and the dancers crackle with irresistible electricity; a creepy and compelling must see for lovers of the Scottish play.
Macbeth is playing at Wilton’s Music Hall until 17 March 2018
Photo: Mark Bruce