‘Filter is at the forefront of contemporary theatre-making as a deviser of new pieces.’ So, for someone unversed in the works of Shakespeare, this is a good thing, right?
Filter have teamed up with Tobacco Factory Theatre to bring their ‘playful’ version of Macbeth to Bristol audiences. Now, my knowledge of Macbeth is next to none but surely the very last adjective anyone would attach to it is ‘playful’. In fact, so base is my understanding that I felt a quick search on Wikipedia was in order before the performance, just so I would know the outline of the story. And, my God, I’m glad I did!
The stage is a square of walkways, in the middle of which is piled an array of sound equipment operated by Twenty First Century Weird Sisters at work, making a cacophony of high tech sounds. Enter Macbeth and (a female) Banquo and let the story begin.
Filter have brought Macbeth bang into today (or even into the future?): no grand costumes, a can of Coke, party poppers, a baby monitor and Skips crisps. The language, though, is of Shakespeare. The actors are obviously well accomplished; they speak clearly, project well. But I don’t know this language and 100 minutes in a comfy Tobacco Factory Theatre seat isn’t enough for me to get The Code.
Maybe there’s too much going on? Does madness beget confusion? Could be that I’m just not concentrating enough? But I wasn’t really with it, didn’t get it. The lights jar slightly as does the static conveyor belt of a stage. I did enjoy that music, though, which adds to the weirdness and madness that must be Macbeth’s lot. And Poppy Miller gives some clarity: I understood her role as Lady Macbeth and could tune in with her somehow.
I left Tobacco Factory Theatre with an uneasiness that didn’t stem so much from the brilliance of performance but from my own self-doubt. Am I really not intelligent enough to understand Shakespeare? Should he remain elitist? Why bother? No, actually, Filter’s production has made me determined to watch other versions of Macbeth and prove to myself that this classic really can be accessible to all.
Macbeth plays at Tobacco Factory Theatre until Saturday 20th September
– Review by Becky Condron