Tuesday, July 16

MacBeth (An Undoing) – Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh

Macbeth is often one of the first Shakespeare stories that we think of, it’s known for: its scottish setting, it’s themes of betrayal and manipulation and of course for its gory and dramatic ending. The tale is often told in the same manner time and time again, the tale of a man being told by a group of witches that he will be king, a manipulative wife who convinces him to murder the current monarch and the insanity and guilt that rips the married couple apart until ultimately, she commits suicide, and he is slain by a former friend.

Whilst the original story exists within Macbeth An Undoing, writer Zinnie Harris has turned the tale on its head, asking what would happen if it were Lady Macbeth who took control? What if she had not gone crazy and instead Macbeth himself was the one taking to sleep walking and over washing his hands?

There are some fantastic elements to this show, from a stellar cast to an unsettling mechanic soundtrack that keeps your arm hairs raised and puts a chill through your body. If you’re looking for gore, it’s here in abundance, in fact blood appears as if by magic from nowhere during this production!

From a design point the show is visually rather interesting. We start with a bare stage space that is without set, colour and much light, this is transformed as the show progresses with moving mirrored walls that both open and close up the space depending on scene and location. The uneven and muddied mirrors distort the actors’ reflections giving a somewhat sinister feel throughout, yet they still leave the original bare stage space in view to remind both characters and audience that this is a conscious retelling of a play rather than just the play itself.

My struggle comes into play with the choice of costume. Alex Berry has opted to dress the characters in fashions of the 1930s, the clothing looks fantastic, and this could work very well if the show was rewritten to be set in that era however it is not. The play is still the same in context of royals in Scotland and traditions of the original Macbeth timeliness such as witch burning. By the 1930s there’s certainly no set king or queen of Scotland.

The same issue of timeline and context comes into play with the language used in the show. Mixing original Shakespeare text with modern. If you aren’t someone who is versed in Shakespeare the first half of the show could be pretty inaccessible, and when the more modern language comes in it feels rather messy.

The same goes with the plot of the play, there are some incredible moments during this show, sure to leave its audience gasping and squirming, especially if you know the original text and story. The problem comes again with the flow, whilst act two is a roller coaster of incredible performance and intelligent direction, some of the story telling and twists are a little too seamless leaving you to question “what is going on?”. I personally love a show that has me thinking and a little confused, but I shouldn’t be leaving the theatre in that state.

This is a really strong cast overall; however a special mention should be noted for our leading lady.

Nicole Cooper is articulate, controlled and a powerhouse of emotion as Lady Macbeth. Her chemistry with co-star Adam Best is undeniable, and she is able to provide us with the much loved, strong female character of Lady Macbeth that people expect whilst also showing us a woman at breaking point who refuses to give up.

Liz Kettle was an audience favourite, opening the show with humour and blunt brilliance. Her stage presence is undeniable.

Overall, this is an interesting watch, and worth the watch.

Macbeth An Undoing is on at The Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh from 14th – 25th May. https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on

Reviewer: Beth Eltringham

Reviewed: 14th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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