Last Updated on 25th April 2023
Paul T Davies reviews Imitating The Dog’s production of Macbeth at the Mercury Theatre Colchester.
Imitating the Dog bring their fusion of live action and installation/videography to Shakespeare’s classic, radically reworking the text to bring relevance to modern audiences. This means that the play is “based on” Shakespeare, and becomes Peaky Macbeth, the titular character becoming the head of a drugs gang, fighting for control and succession amongst the grimy car parks and clubs of a city called Estuary. The witches inventively also act as chorus, made up to look like Heath Ledger’s the Joker, they are wonderfully irreverent, revelling in cheeky asides to the audience, setting the scenes and multi-rolling with ease. It’s not for the purists, and, whilst much of the production is involving and the pace invigorating, the staging doesn’t allow the play to breath, it crashes onto the next gimmick, all through a sweary Peaky Blinders filter that is already becoming a bit tedious on both stage and television.
There are many positives to this production, not least the projections and the cast, the five actors make an impressive ensemble. Lady Macbeth, via a wonderous Manga inspired sequence, is given a back story of child abuse to explain some of her later actions. Impressive as it may be, we’ve never had it until now and Maia Tamraker’s excellent performance gives us everything we need to know about Lady M. The problem for Benjamin Westerby in this production is that Macbeth starts off as murderous gangster and ends the same, there is no character development or clan loyalty, everyone is on the make, solid as his performance is.
The interpretation of the witches gives them gleeful authority to play with text and performance, but the meta-theatricality becomes a little unnecessary, we don’t have to be told everything when we can see the action unfolding. There is also little justification for Lady Macbeth surviving and escaping after finding out she is pregnant; it takes away all the impact and tragic circumstances of that role.
Whilst Pete Brooks, Andrew Quick and Simon Wainwright’s production is visually film noir entertaining, the irony is that the production is at its best when the original text is spoken, and the company speak it impressively. The old maxim that less is more would certainly be of benefit at many points in this pierce. That said, it was a thrill to see an almost full house, and pupils studying the play will have much to discuss and disassemble.