Review: Macbeth, Mark Bruce Company, DanceEast, March 23-24

Macbeth by Mark Bruce Company is at DanceEast this weekend. Pictured here are the witches. Picture:

Macbeth by Mark Bruce Company is at DanceEast this weekend. Pictured here are the witches. Picture: NICOLE GUARINO - Credit: Archant

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one of the world’s greatest plays. It’s got murder, greed, lust, passion, ambition, witches and magic. Who could ask for more?

Macbeth by Mark Bruce Company which is at DanceEast. Jonathan Goddard as Macbeth, Eleanor Duval as

Macbeth by Mark Bruce Company which is at DanceEast. Jonathan Goddard as Macbeth, Eleanor Duval as Lady Macbeth. Photo: Nicole Guarino - Credit: Archant

Leading choreographer Mark Bruce, who has previously tackled Dracula and The Odyssey, now takes The Bard from the Playhouse to the DanceHouse, in a thrilling adaptation that not only gives the dark tale bags of atmosphere but manages to bring out elements of the plot that many, more conventional, re-stagings frequently miss.

The first of these is the fact that Lady Macbeth comes within a knife’s blade of killing Duncan herself bringing visual substance to the line “ Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done it”. She looms over Duncan about to deliver the fatal blow and then shies away, leaving Macbeth to do the deed.

The appearance of Banquo’s ghost also imaginatively done. The traditional feast is replaced by a ball and Macbeth is dancing with his wife, he looks away, and Banquo slips into Lady Macbeth’s position. It’s simple but highly effective and offers Macbeth plenty to react to.

The staging is both atmospheric and expressive. The audience is drawn into a dark world, lit by pools of light and flashes of lightning. The music is by turns harsh, electronic and discordant and then sweet, lyrical and classical.

Macbeth by Mark Bruce Company which is at DanceEast. Macbeth (Jonathan Goddard) with the witches who

Macbeth by Mark Bruce Company which is at DanceEast. Macbeth (Jonathan Goddard) with the witches who may only be figments of Macbeth's imagination Photo: Nicole Guarino - Credit: Archant


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It’s a large company but Jonathan Goddard and Eleanor Duval command centrestage as the ambitious Macbeths. They allow us to witness not only their deadly scheming but also their love for one another. Lady Macbeth’s final solo is both touching and tragic. They create complex characters which interact with the fictional world on stage and reach out to the audience.

Mark Bruce is a master of dance-theatre and creates an enjoyably physical staging of this brutal tale. The night I saw it there was a highly percentage of young people in the audience who were spellbound by what they were witnessing on stage. The buzz at the interval was electric. The large fight scenes – the opening battle, the assassins who ambush Banquo and the Macbeth’s final downfall – are spectacular. The ritualistic element of the beheadings with the ceremonial sword is quite unnerving.

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The witches, smeared with dirt, and initially half-hidden behind metallic masks, are well realised and come across as a combination of ethereal figures of our imagination and sinister, doll-like creatures. This is a dynamic re-telling of a familiar story and manages to be both historic and topical, which is doubly frightening.

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