Flabbergast Theatre’s Tragedy of Macbeth Review
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It’s hard to bring a new take to the stage with a 400-year-old script that has been repeated, studied and performed countless times across the globe. Surprisingly, Flabbergast’s award-winning rendition may shock even the most battle-hardened theatre addicts, but not always for the right reasons.
There is nothing more beautiful and powerful than watching an artist wholeheartedly surrender themselves to their work, which is true for every single cast and crew member in this production.
From the very first moment audiences enter The Large at Southwark Playhouse they are confronted with the full cast, eight actors, dressed in sack cloth and covered in clay, exploring the area in a way I remember doing as a warm up in high school drama classes, albeit not nearly as well.
As the actors stumble, interact and follow their instincts on stage, the enthralling performance quickly pulls audiences in, convincing them of a storyline that doesn’t quite exist. A moment filled with grief and romance and comedy that honestly gave me goosebumps.
Tragically, this may be the biggest highlight of the performance as the actual play continuously tries to match this captivating energy, consistently missing it every time.
Flabbergast specialises in physical theatre, a fact evident from the very first pentameter, but as they undertake their first Shakespearian work it seems to be more of an experiment than a defined performance.
The absolute undying intention and conviction behind every single line and movement proves just enough to keep this performance afloat, even when audiences get confused in the stew of countless theatrical techniques.
Their emphasise on physicality also becomes their downfall. It’s no secret that Shakespeare’s prose is difficult to understand, especially when the last time you encountered Macbeth was in high school, but adding interpretive dances in the background doesn’t serve to make things any clearer.
In fact, these captivating background performances often become scene stealers, especially amid lengthy and convoluted monologues, as a man being repeatedly stabbed with a stick proves far more entertaining than Macbeth’s self-fulfilling prophecy.
As the lead descends into madness so too does the performance, further confusing the set work and leaving audiences somewhat earning for some fresh air to recentre themselves.
Visually, this may be the most intriguing and arresting show currently running in London. A bold statement yes but deservedly as the cast move as one into chilling tableauxs, forming monstrous images and giving life to puppets and props in breathtaking movement.
Flabbergast are caught between a rock and a hard place in this performance, or between Birnam Wood and Dunsinane if you will.
Shakespearian writing may be the only works with enough gravitas to launch Flabbergast into a visual performance of this intensity, but the already complex script is almost too much for them to handle.
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Shockingly, for The Tragedy of Macbeth, theatre-goers may not expect its comedy to be a stand-out success for the evening, but the brilliant clowning could be a show of its own.
Flabbergast’s unique portrayal of the witches is also a raging triumph for the performance, as they become an omnipotent and ever-present companions haunting Macbeth, with some pagan ritualistic influences taking their threatening nature to a new level.
Ultimately, the spoken performance is as understandable as a Shakespearian play can be but the visually outstanding production is just enough to make this an enjoyable night out for those seeking something different in the heart of the city.
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