Home / Drama / Macbeth – Northern Stage, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Macbeth – Northern Stage, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Writer: William Shakespeare

Created by Filter Theatre

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

Ambition, power, politics, corruption, murder and more, this is Macbeth. The plot dealing with these themes is indeed a horror story. Macbeth essentially concerns the warrior’s rise to power and consequent downfall.

This modern interpretation endeavors to tell the story by stripping it down to selected spliced text with musical acoustics featuring largely, innovative sound – Filter Theatre’s trademark. The centre stage, or ‘hot spot’ is occupied by custom made, electrical, mechanical, acoustic instruments which take centre stage in more ways than one.

The instruments of darkness tells us truths

… says Macbeth (Ferdy Roberts) but these instruments do not enlighten, indeed while the original compositions (Tom Haines) are used to dramatize and enforce the mood, some of the text is lost by overriding static and sound effects.

All characters are played by a cast of seven in modern rehearsal attire, on a bare stage apart from the central instruments. The variations of grey and black, while giving a minimal and austere appearance is uninteresting, not adding to the drama. The lighting (Matthew Graham) was at times so subdued as to make the actors barely visible, especially during important speeches. The production lays a heavy responsibility on youthful actor’s shoulders, as apart from sound there is little to enhance or convey the involved story line.

It is difficult to see how this interruption adds anything to the understanding or enjoyment of the play, being visually uninspiring and most of the pace coming from the sound and not the actors. Lady Macbeth (Poppy Milburn) shows some of the evil ambition that drove Macbeth to his deadly deeds, but the overload of corrosive, psychological, political ambition is not conveyed.

This is a joint production by Filter Theatre, known for its modern recreation of the classics and the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol, one of the countries most respected venues. They encourage experimentation, never forgetting that their audience is the reason for their existence. However this production could be said to test that loyalty. Filter Theatre says they had “the idea of making a Macbeth that is playful and funny” as opposed to concentrating on the darker side, but this was only evident in a short sketch involving Brodie’s notes as a GCSE crib sheet. While there is humour in most situations, this is a tragedy, so any attempt to change its ethos is fighting an uphill battle and destined to fail.

The near full house, largely comprised of students, were at an advantage having no doubt read and studied the play, because anyone who is unfamiliar with the text would be at a disadvantage. Although this is Shakespeare’s shortest and probably his most intense, play attempting to tell it all in eighty minutes with sound occupying a large percentage, it makes for a tall order. An actor imparts a lot with the voice but also visually with body language and dress; these were sadly lacking. Theatre productions are made to be seen as opposed to just heard.

“If music be the food of life…” this show is acoustically a full plate, but dramatically unfulfilling.

Reviewed on: 10th March 2015

Writer: William Shakespeare Created by Filter Theatre Reviewer: Anna Ambelez Ambition, power, politics, corruption, murder and more, this is Macbeth. The plot dealing with these themes is indeed a horror story. Macbeth essentially concerns the warrior’s rise to power and consequent downfall. This modern interpretation endeavors to tell the story by stripping it down to selected spliced text with musical acoustics featuring largely, innovative sound – Filter Theatre’s trademark. The centre stage, or ‘hot spot’ is occupied by custom made, electrical, mechanical, acoustic instruments which take centre stage in more ways than one. The instruments of darkness tells us truths…

Review Overview

The Public Reviews Score

A tragedy

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East
The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Charlotte Broadbent. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.