Storyhouse, Chester- until 16th March 2019 then touring until 31st May.
Reviewed by Joseph Everton
The story of Macbeth is well known and has been recreated and retold countless times. Giuseppe Verdi’s operatic attempt, performed by The English Touring Opera, marched into the historic walled city of Chester with all the ambition of Lady Macbeth herself and pulled off the feat excellently.
Swords and shields were swapped for automatic weapons in James Dacre’s production, cradled by soldiers in the attire of guerrilla fighters from a modern war. The set, more of a cold war bunker than a castle, was adorned with a hanged traitor and topped with a gallery from which Macbeth’s soldiers could point their weapons at an uneasy audience. The staging was as cold and unsettling as the twisted relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, portrayed by Grant Doyle and Madeleine Pierard, who managed to convey a real sense of despair and crippling regret as they began to fall foul of their evil deeds.
The witches, of which there were many more than three, wore gowns more akin to that of a crimean war nurse and lit up a darkened and atmospheric stage with glowing lanterns but did not set hairs on end like you might expect a hag to do, their scenes lacking in witchcraft.
Andrew Porter’s excellent English translation of the text ensured that the storyline was easy to follow, with the subtitles providing only an unnecessary distraction. New Zealander soprano Madeleine Pierard’s vocal stood out and was well appreciated by the audience. Amar Muchhala’s Macduff made more likeable by the tenor’s warm tones.
Macbeth, by the English Touring Opera, provided an interesting departure from a classic version of the story but certainly an entertaining one which, although relatively poorly attended on the night, is more than deserving of a large audience.