Saturday, September 30

Macbeth – Shakespeare North Playhouse

What more apt way to celebrate a theatre company’s 30th birthday, than to deliver a production of Shakespeare’s most popular plays Macbeth internationally, and to start this amazing tour at the iconic Shakespeare North Playhouse in the heart of the Northern town of Prescot.  This is exactly what the ETT theatre company did.

We are all familiar with the 17th century tale of deceit, corruption and guilt. How Macbeth, an ambitious yet submissive man, with his narcissistic and controlling wife, murder King Duncan, as he sleeps. Who, then adding to this horrendous crime, also murder Duncan’s friend Banquo, to further clear their way to power. We know that these crimes haunt them throughout the play, torturing their tormented minds and souls but ETT have taken this tale into a new exhilarating and visionary sphere, exhibiting these exploits into modern day, convincing us how this insatiable greed resonates in today’s society. 

The historical and unique backdrop of the SNT ‘s Frons Scene gave the audience an impressive opening to the play, as we were welcomed to the trial of the three sorceresses (infamous and gruesome characters in the Baird’s play) who stand accused of witchcraft by two clergymen. The audience are instantly faced with the pending fate of three innocent lives and already the psychological twist begins. The three iconic witches do not appear as expected throughout the play, so again, ETT take an inimitable view of their role and impact of the players – there is no gathering around a bubbling cauldron, but a more subtle embodiment of how evil resides in all of us.

From this first scene of the trial, we meet the sublime cast- the Macbeths in their home, preparing for the arrival of King Duncan and his men – Banquo, Malcolm, Lennox, Macduff and Ross, bloody on their return from battle.  As the dinner party continues with joy and banter, the Macbeths plot their treacherous murder of their tyrant King. 

Following this heinous crime, the fate of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, is that of mental anguish and turmoil. Their sanity weakened by further murders (Banquo, Macduff and family) and this spiralling them minute by minute into psychotic madness. The superb cast weaving into this madness, are gullible bystanders swallowed up into the Macbeths’ insatiable greed and we, the audience, like them, are powerless witnesses to these atrocities.

 ETT, with their incredible artistic director Richard Twyman and executive producer Sophie Scull, have transformed this old tale into one of current day. Tyrants still exist and are currently prevalent and society may try to overthrow these rulers, whilst battling with their own moral ethics and anxiously clutching on being mentally intact. Of course, as in Shakespearian times, this can leave devastating results.

The ingenious concept of adding the video screens to the set worked wonderfully, in that the audience could see the intimate scenes and shared Macbeth’s vision of Banquo’s ghost. Malcolm holding the video recorder throughout the play, invited us to view the cast in close-up and was very impactful. 

The whole cast were a joy to watch, but immense credit must be given to the superb leads – Mike Noble as Macbeth, who didn’t miss a beat/word in his loquacious dialogue and whose charisma hypnotised us in absorbing his turmoil and guilt and Laura Elsworthy as Lady Macbeth, who with her evil, seductive avarice had us despising and pitying her with equal measures.   

Thankfully this play is showing at the theatre for several weeks till 23rd September, giving all of you who read this the opportunity to see this wonderful play. Come and see masters at work – doing what they do best – whilst you can.

Playing at Shakespeare North Playhouse until 23rd September 2023,

Reviewer Jan Mellor

Reviewed: 6th September 2023

North West End UK Rating: 4

International tour dates –

Northern Stage: 27th September – 7th October 2023

New Wolsey Ipswich: 17th – 21st October 2023

Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg: 25th – 28th October 2023

Dubai Opera House: 3rd – 5th November 2023

Cambridge Arts Theatre: 8th – 11th November 2023

The Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe: 14th – 18th November 2023

Bristol Old Vic: 25th January – 10th February 2024

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford: 20th – 24th February 2024