Theatre Group Offer a Fresh Take on Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’

Featuring a strong cast, excellent production and a modern interpretation of the Shakespeare classic, Theatre Group’s ‘Macbeth’ is a success.

Ella Kennedy’s Macbeth warps the classic tragedy into a narrative of underground secrecy, forming a corporate world peppered with criminality below a surface of tough professionalism. Suited up, and fuelled with narcotics, Macbeth’s infamously ferocious power drive is manifested in a setting of business competitiveness, where the top spot can only be achieved through sheer inhumanity. It’s a cut-throat take on the original tale, and an impressive display of Theatre Group’s ability to rework and contemporise Shakespeare.

With a minimal set and an icy, electronic soundtrack, the aesthetics of the show are stark and create an unwelcoming sense of discomfort in Pyramid Theatre’s in-the-round stage space. Upon entering, the three witches’ (Tife Kusoro, Emma Powell and Emelia Jack) snake-like physicality introduces an atmosphere far from the fantasy world of pointy hats, broomsticks and cackles. Kennedy’s witches are a creepy rework of often stereotyped characters. Grooming Macbeth (Calum O’Toole) with their fleshy embraces, they embody an alien, yet somehow sensual, image of female persuasion, later magnified by the femme-fatale figure of Anna Thrussell as Lady Macbeth.

Image: Theatre Group

O’Toole’s smiles and enthusiasm in the opening scenes introduce him as a surprisingly likeable Macbeth, offering ample opportunity to contrast this sanity with his later murderous hysteria. It’s a unique reflection of the character that invites us to question the psychology of his motivations, demonstrating Kennedy’s loyalty to the script’s thematic content. This directorial attention to the play’s key questions is also demonstrated through Anna Thrussell’s handling of Lady Macbeth’s feminine authority.

Costumed in a timelessly smart black dress, Thrussell’s wordless aura of prestige as Lady Macbeth balances the notorious female’s short-tempered dominance over her husband with a sense of womanly attraction. She creates an uber-powerful image of power without sacrificing the play’s toying with themes of femininity, a fantastic portrayal of an incredibly multi-layered role. Thrussell’s chemistry with O’Toole onstage offers some of the play’s most entertaining moments: the well-known persuasion speech as Macbeth backtracks on his plan to murder Duncan sees the pair explore dynamics of gender and power, with O’Toole diminished by Thrussell’s female prowess.

With fantastic acting and an overall aura of darkness throughout, Theatre Group’s Macbeth is cleverly modernised without losing grip on the poignant themes that have immortalized this tragedy. I look forward to seeing them tackle less commercially popular Shakespeare in the future.

Katherine Corcoran

(Image courtesy of Theatre Group)