When it comes to plays, Shakespeare wrote the book. There is arguably no author that has seen his work re-adapted, re-jigged and repeated quite like him. From classic interpretations, to modern twists, there’s always something being cast out on stage.
In all honesty, I tend to be more partial to a classic portrayal. In my eyes the plays are classics, and that’s how they should stay.
However, I’m always keen to see the different, imaginative ways people reconstruct these famous tales. That’s why I was so excited to see Pontardawe Arts Centre presentation of Macbeth this week at Barry Memorial Centre.
The performance has already had a lot of media attention around South Wales. Pontardawe Arts Centre are on a mission to bring Shakespeare to a younger audience (never a bad thing!) – so far, it really does seem to be working. One of their main aims is to show that Shakespeare is still relevant in a tech-obsessed, social media frenzied society. Great ideas – I was interested to see whether this translated on stage.
Barry Memorial Centre hosts quite a small, intimate theatre. For this performance in particular, the seating was set out in an even more intimate fashion, cocooning the stage. I was a bit worried this would be a bit intimidating, but the performance really used it to its full advantage.
The show started with a bang – quite literally. Explosions shattered the stage as a man dressed in soldiers attire flung himself in front of us, before collapsing to the ground in a heap. The soldier in question was our very own Macbeth,
It transpired that Pontardawe’s interpretation of the play placed it right in the middle of an Afghanistan battle field. The Scottish play didn’t even touch the British Isles. I thought this was a very brave decision, but certainly a wise one. Such a potent subject in today’s society, I immediately saw them reaching out to new audiences. Keeping away from the castles and cauldrons, they kept the play real.
After the explosive start, I had myself set for similar effects throughout the rest of the play. Unfortunately, that’s where they stopped. But it really didn’t matter – the acting spoke for itself.
For me, Lady Macbeth stole the show – but as my favourite character in the play, that could be a bit bias! The moments where madness begun to grip its claws into the two mains were when they really begun to shine. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were so believable. There raw performance coupled with the almost claustrophobic setting made for uncomfortable viewing – a job well done for such scenes. You felt as if you were peeking through the key hole at some sordid, twisted event. It just made the whole thing so much more believable; it made you feel as if it could happen anywhere.
Throughout the whole show, characters would run in from all different parts of the theatre – ducking and diving between chairs, creeping up behind you, appearing as if from no where. Sirens sounded from behind the seating, soldiers were screaming and shouting from all around. Again, you felt as if you were really a part of what was going on – you were connected to it. Had the show been performed in a larger theatre, you just wouldn’t have had the same close, intimidating atmosphere of the battlefield. The stage was absolutely ideal.
The final battle scene between Macbeth and Macduff was really realistic – so much so I was actually wincing as Macduff seemed to smash Macbeth’s head to the ground! No swords, just bloody daggers plunging into character’s defeated chests – that and good old fists! We all edged further and further to the edge of our seats as the fatal moment happened, and Macbeth fell to his death. A hush. Silence. The cast created an incredible atmosphere, and with the final words, the set disappeared into a sinister darkness.
All in all, the show was impressive. I love what they are trying to do – and what I think they certainly will be able to do! They made the play so relevant, and it will appeal to an interesting new audience. Shakespeare’s stories will always be relevant – power, madness and destruction. It happens all around us every single day. Warlords gain more and more power with terrifying repercussions. We still have madmen around the world in positions of extreme control, with no real means to stop them.
Due to personal taste only, I still prefer a more classic portrayal of the play. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it immensely – more than anything, it was a fantastic feeling to see so many fresh faces around me loving Shakespeare’s work. A huge well done to the company, and good luck with all the rest of their shows!
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