Trickster Theatre, for one, won’t be going anywhere without a fight. In terms of making something from nothing, their production of Macbeth was quite the triumph. This was the first play put on in the sparce and extremely basic performance space Studio Liverpool, in the rafters of Elevator Studios on Parliament Street. Performed in the round, which worked fantastically apart from the bit where one of the Weird Sisters accidentally bumped into my chair in the dark and scared me half to death, this was a production that knew there was nowhere to hide and everything to prove.
Interestingly, most of the cast (including Trevor Fleming, Angie Waller, Paul Robinson and assistant director Rosie Wilkinson) also perform in improvised comedy group Impropriety. And they’re damn fine at that, so there was no reason to believe they couldn’t pull tragedy off with some style too.
Director Cellan Scott has, I understand, been trying to get his vision of the Scottish Play off the ground for the best part of 15 years. A real shame he will be overshadowed by the upcoming Everyman production, for he makes a mesmerising Macbeth. Naturalistic in his modern-day style and with edgy charisma to spare, for those who prefer their Shakespeare more down to earth than RSC he really did the business. Combined with the deadly charms of Helen Foster as Lady Macbeth, they made a chillingly good (and not to mention sexy) couple, each drawing strength from the other in moments of doubt as their deeds became more and more inexcusable.
The highlight may have been Macbeth’s genuinely spine-tingling showdown with the witches, and the later advance through Birnam Wood to Castle Macbeth was evocatively done too, with the players winding their way around the audience. Lighting was simple, but effective, and subtle sound effects, like a ticking clock or howling winds, helped build up a tense atmosphere. Fight scenes were satisfyingly realistic, and when the Weird Sisters were in full flow, things were beautifully creepy. A simple dais at the head of the stage space was used to good effect with the appearance of Banquo’s ghost and for the play’s bloody climax.
There were a few things that attempted to knock things off their stride – the traffic outside can be heard going by, and being on Parliament Street that’s bound to include sirens at some point. And the general refusal by the hipster set in the audience to switch off their phones was rude and offputting, given that guilty parties can be clearly seen in the intimate surrounds. But in the end you could really immerse yourself in this production. Dark and intense, its integrity and vision was clear, and the talent behind it more than capable. It runs until Saturday, and is well worth a look.
More information and reserve tickets are available here.