Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays; it was written during the reign of King James I and, as such, is dark. It predominately reflects the personal insecurities James had regarding his position as King. Shakespeare existed in a patriotic world, where his plays were often performed at the King’s Court.
Remembering that the Globe Theatre was established by Shakespeare, this adaptation becomes immensely special. As is customary, it is played in the round and one can picture the original Shakespearean audiences absorbing Shakespeare’s plays in the same space. Specially created for secondary school age children, this shortened show is directed by Cressida Brown. The action is set in eleventh century Scotland.
Our action commences with the creepy witches emerging out of a pile of bodies, making the school age audience audibly squeal. Addressing the audience and breaking the fourth wall, the three witches (Mara Allen, Molly Logan and Jessica Murrain), plot and scheme in their sinister manner. Further unfolding, the witches tell Macbeth (Ekow Quartey) and his friend Banquo (Samuel Oatley) that he will be King of Scotland.
Lady Macbeth (Elly Condron), persuades Macbeth to kill the King. As a result, the scenes unfold in a gory yet educational blur of fights, murder and patriotism. Seasoned watchers of Shakespeare know that the portrayal of power struggles and mental health is what makes the play a timeless and important masterpiece. Ultimately, and refreshingly, there is a happy ending in this adaptation, in order to lessen the gruesome nature of the play. Characters perform a jaunty dance for the children at the end of the play, encouraging audience participation as everyone claps and cheers.
Condron and Quartey make a considered effort to pronounce their dialogue clearly and carefully. Due to this, the teenage audience can understand the action. Also, the play is constantly interactive. Characters often run into the crowd to surprise the audience and even make utterances to them. It is this interactivity and desire to entertain that captivates watchers throughout.
Staging is simple yet effective, with an abundance of props to punctuate the action. Brown uses numerous flags to underline the patriotism and national pride prevalent in eleventh century Scotland. Ultimately, whilst the stripped back set is of the era, it allows the audience to really focus on what is being said and happening.
Overall, the play focuses heavily on tyranny and the effects of power. It becomes relevant for twenty-first century watchers as they educate themselves on the past but can also use the twenty-first century as a comparison. All aspects of the play place patriotism and the damaging effects of power under the spotlight. Drums and ominous music increase foreboding in tense moments but also emphasise national pride in joyous scenes.
Brown’s recent Macbeth adaptation is a great watch. It is suitably educational for secondary school children- but also humorous and often sad. Despite its simplification, it is worth a watch by individuals of all ages. The enduring legacy of Shakespeare lives on through the play.
Cressida Brown’s adaptation of Macbeth is streaming on the Globe Theatre’s YouTube channel as part of their fundraising.
Words by Olivia Devereux-Evans.