An explosive fusion of live action and multimedia technology pops off the stage and saturates the senses, with this self-described ‘neon noir thriller’ styled interpretation of the Bard’s ‘Scottish Play’.
Technical theatrical ground breakers, Andrew Quick, Pete Brooks and Simon Wainwright, otherwise known as Imitating the Dog, produce and direct this postmodernist retelling of Shakespeare’s “Wonder Boy”, Macbeth, brilliantly portrayed by Benjamin Westerby. The multiple layers of this clever production really do test the senses with various points of action taking place simultaneously, taking us on a rapid adventure through this tragic tale of the psychological and physical effects that come with the pursuit of power.
If you’re familiar with the aesthetic of DC’s Gotham or Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, (dark, wet and industrial) then you can imagine the ambience of where the action takes place, across the urban sprawl of the imaginary Estuary City. Beautifully animated backdrops are nicely portrayed alongside animalistic soundscapes and a few popular animated Japanese fantasy characters. Adding a nice balance between realism versus fantasy, echoing the question central to Macbeth.
“Upstarts defying the rules” describe Macbeth, and his steely wife Lady Macbeth (Maia Tamrakar), uncommonly portrayed in their teens, a conscious choice by the directors in a bid to generate empathy from the audience as we’re told of their childhood adversities and experiences of feeling ‘less than’. Westerby and Tamrakar believably encapsulate the nuances of the Macbeth’s journey as they navigate the rollercoaster of their deviant plotting and its devastating aftermath. Tamrakar’s superb portrayal of Lady M is tough yet shows her vulnerabilities during her slow descent into madness, and Westerby’s Macbeth holds his own as he wrestles with his consciousness and his concept on reality.
The real drivers of this story are the three ‘weird sisters’ played by Laura Atherton, Stefan Chanyaem and Matt Prendergast, who provide a masterclass in characterisation. This trio of witches, ‘Droogish’ in their appearance with a menacing presence, successfully demand the imagination of the audience by seamlessly morphing into the various characters of the play from Banquo, to Duncan and to Macduff, whilst also operating the onstage cameras, and narrating the scenes. The cameras to become the embodiment of different characters giving a ‘Peep Show’ style POV allowing the Macbeths to present their many masks direct to the audience. Elements of epic theatre, providing analysis, documentation of the action, physical theatre, flow and delivery of the action scenes are complimented well by the smooth transitions, sound, lighting and video design. The only negative aspect was the overuse of the driving scenes which later become that bit too repetitive thus making my attention flitter.
What constantly grounds us throughout this highly stylised piece is the Shakespearean English, and the exquisiteness of the writing woven within the urban dialect and expletives. For those who feel that Shakespeare isn’t accessible, Imitating the Dog manage to retain the authenticity of the play whilst delivering a production suitable for the modern-day brain. We’re rewiring our neurological software to receive and interpret quick successions of images, ideas, concepts, and a range of visual mediums to gather meaning. By combining in the Shakespeare narrative with this mode of storytelling, helps to bring the Bard to a new range of audiences within a modern familiar guise. Even if you prefer traditional, allow theatre to push your wits and give this big beating production a try.
It is important to note that there are a number of content warning with the show, as follows:
– flashing imagery and lighting effects
– loud noises, including recorded gunshots
– strong language
– scenes featuring moments, descriptions and images of violence and use of firearms
– simulated smoking
– reference to child abuse
Catch Macbeth at the Liverpool Playhouse until 29th April, tickets available from https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/whats-on/macbeth-imitating-the-dog
The tour then concludes in the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield from 3rd until the 6th May, for tickets visit https://www.thelbt.org/what-s-on/drama/macbeth/
Reviewer: Gill Lewis
Reviewed: 25th April 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★