A play like Macbeth is notoriously hard to do in an original way, but Titian Theatre makes their attempt stand out with a lightning-fast production. It’s a tall order to compress such a convoluted play into just over an hour and a half (and an even taller order for the audience), but director Amber Elliott manages the task superbly.
Tom Blyth’s Macbeth isn’t brooding, consumed and controlling as one would expect, but nervous, overly paranoid and frightened. He jumps when people come to see him. He gives off little authority, and this new take is refreshing. Out with the determination to beat his fate and assert his will, in with just trying to survive for as long as he can, like a high school cheerleader in a low budget slasher film.
Blyth’s performance is detailed, and he has taken on this interpretation with relish. Completely in awe and dominated by Louise Ryan’s Lady Macbeth, Blyth is constantly on his knees crawling around and snuggling in to her. It’s a physically demanding role and the pace is frantic, as Macbeth tries to murder his way out of his problems. The relationship between Macbeth and his Lady seems designed to highlight his gradual loosening grip on reality. They are passionate and all over each other at the start, but they become increasingly disinterested with each other and cold--exemplified by the ease with which Macbeth accepts the death of his wife.
The rest of the exceptionally small cast work through the play quickly, at times downed out by Macbeth's energy and bounding across the stage. The witches' entrance, lying in pitch black on the floor, is striking.
On the production element, the visuals and sounds are terrific. The costuming, too, adds to the atmosphere, and what is missing in props and scenery is made up for here. The decision to go down the traditional medieval route is a good one, with authentic robes, armour and dresses throughout.Particular attention is paid to the brutal fights, with fight choreographer Lyndell Grant introducing variety and suspense. Despite knowing the story and ultimately who wins each fight, it is still genuinely exciting to watch. The music accompanying each blow sets the scene fantastically, acting as a second stage manager for the actors.
Ultimately, this is an engaging and frantic production. Much has been cut, and it becomes more about Macbeth and his descent into tyranny and less about the struggle for a kingdom. Blyth is a force to behold, and the production, which is bare, is excellent, engaging and a genuinely original adaptation of a timeless and well-worn tale.