One of three shows in The Bunker Trilogy directed by Jethro Compton, Macbeth is played in a World War I-style trench setting where the lead character first appears on the brink of his downfall. In other words, it begins virtually at the end, and the audience must grasp this quickly to make the most of the intimate and intense experience that follows.
The narrative quickly jumps back in time to show the events that have brought Macbeth (Sam Donnelly) to this state. Abridged and somewhat fractured compared with the original, the story is a rollercoaster of Macbeth’s disturbed recollections.
Donnelly shines, using all of the small and sometimes claustrophobic stage, a dugout constructed as a box of hessian and wood. His character doubts and then, in the darkest ways, pursues the future that has been forecast for him, wrestling with hallucinations and ghosts along the way. It is a commanding performance.
Bebe Sanders, as a young Lady Macbeth, is rather overshadowed by Donnelly. She is capable and engaging when at her best but sometimes lacks sufficient gravity, being hard to take seriously as a woman prepared to act in such a sinister manner. Hayden Wood is a pleasure to watch as Banquo and, while James Marlowe has fewer opportunities to impress as Macduff, he too gives strong support.
Compton’s direction and design are worth mention for more than the set construction. The audience sits close on benches around three sides, and good use is made of that in the banquet scene – though none need fear being in the front row. The actors use gas masks in several scenes, both to better portray the horror of war and also because they allow for multiple role playing, such as when the three witches are required to be seen.
It is difficult to do justice to Macbeth with both fewer actors and a different setting. That the four players and the designer did this so well is an extremely worthy accomplishment.
The Bunker Trilogy – Morgana, Argamemnon and Macbeth – play at The Bunker, 25 Marlborough Street, Adelaide, until March 16.
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