As always The Rose Playhouse has a unique feel, blending its theatrical history with modern preservation that lends nicely to their contemporary Shakespearian productions. The latest of these productions is Alex Pearson’s Macbeth. Already the shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies this production has cut back the action to an 80 minute run time and while this is not necessarily a negative, there were times when it felt that without prior knowledge or understanding of the text you may end up slightly lost, writes Rosie O’Connell.
Perhaps due to the condensed text Jesse Ayertey’s Macbeth doesn’t quite hit the mark in terms of exposure and vulnerability, but makes up for it with his anger and desire. Parys Jordon does very well in a supporting role as an array of bold characterisations throughout, each distinguished enough for clarity. Esther Shanson’s Lady Macbeth is ruthless and damaged, and the rest of the cast do well too, flitting from role to role with relative ease.
The stripped back production works well, the backdrop of the old theatre has a haunting aspect that works perfectly with the narrative, however, added props such as mobile phones feel unnecessary. With such a simple retelling, the time and place really isn’t that important, so minor attempts at modernisation are more distracting than anything. Either go full Baz Luhrmann or just leave it, if you ask me.
All of the key plot points are here, of course, from the witches to murder and bloodstained hallucinations, but without the depth in the text some characters’ motivation is misplaced and results in it being quite unclear. One of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays, filled with political ambition, power and drama somehow felt a tad tedious.
Macbeth is on at The Rose Playhouse, 56 Park Street, Bankside, SE1 9AR until February 24th. Times: Tues – Sat 7.30pm; Sun 18th 3pm. Admission: £17, £15 concs; Southwark Residents £10. Phone: 0207 261 9565.