Foul Play’s production of Macbeth masters the art of innovative theatre, providing a feast for the senses and delivering a unique approach to a classic Shakespearean tale.
Director Yasmin Gurreeboo has made many bold decisions, giving her audience the challenge of keeping up with this brave, stylistic production which continually goes outside the square.
The warehouse performance space at Plant 1 in Bowden lends itself to the cold, heartless environment of a lock-up institution. Whether it is intended to be a prison or an asylum, it adds volumes to the atmosphere and intrigue, echoing an inhumane industrial production line.
The three witches are confined to separate cells as the audience enters the venue and the magic begins. In a directorial stroke of genius, Macduff, Banquo and Ross inhabit the roles of institutional guards, establishing a territorial ritual akin to the night watchmen, claiming the space and delivering their lines as commands and instructions.
Breaking convention from the outset paves the way for engaging, creative solutions throughout the production. The witches double as Malcolm, Fleance and Lady Macduff, serving to keep the audience on its attentive toes and stretching the boundaries between what’s real and imagined. This also exquisitely foreshadows the diminishing and questionable mental capacity of Macbeth.
The provocative and often menacing nature of the three witches is amplified as they traverse the space through imagined walls, penetrating the mind of a troubled Macbeth, who faces the agony and irony of extremes, in one moment comforted in their arms and in another force-fed by them.
In much the same way, the misappropriation of authority is implicit in the treacherous and deceptive calculations of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. We watch their power-hungry dreams turn into nightmares of murder and madness all the way to Macbeth’s gut-wrenching walk of death.
Foul Play presents this production with an all-female cast and then an all-male cast, and it is fascinating to watch them performing the same material. Like a laboratory experiment investigating the nurture/nature theory, the innate impulse of the female towards introspection and emotion is juxtaposed with the male tendency toward externalising violence; the male aspect dominates the physical space while the female aspect dominates the mind.
With seamless transitions from reality to dream states and from one character to another, the entire cast performs like a well-oiled machine. Special mention must go to Jacqy Philips and Patrick Frost for their inspired renditions of Macbeth, but every cast member fulfils their role with poetic brilliance.
This stand-out production of Macbeth is not to be missed. Foul Play provides a clear, insightful and profound interpretation of this noteworthy play, which demonstrates a positive future for the emerging professional theatre company.
Foul Play is presenting Macbeth until February 9 at Plant 1, 18 Park Terrace, Bowden. Some performances feature only the all-female or all-male ensembles, but there are also double bills with both.
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