Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Macbeth, Guildford Shakespeare Company, Holy Trinity

Published on: 16 Feb, 2020
Updated on: 16 Feb, 2020

‘O’er-vaulting ambition’: Lady Macbeth (Stella Taylor) urges her husband (Jack Whitam) on.

By Alice Fowler

Not for nothing is Macbeth one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays. It is the shortest, for one thing, its language rich and vivid. Its themes, meanwhile – ambition, guilt, the toxic blend of passion and power – are timeless.

With this familiarity comes freedom. The Guildford Shakespeare Company, in their new production at Guildford’s Holy Trinity Church, plunges us into modern guerrilla warfare. Actors wear camouflage fatigues and weapons vests, bombs are hurled in strange balletic movements, while traitors are despatched with a gun to the back of his neck. Sirens blare, knife blades flash and Holy Trinity’s dome is bathed in blood-red light.

Child-like and sinister: the three witches, Dan Krikler, Lucy Pearson and Annabelle Terry. © GSC Photo Matt Pereira

Director Charlotte Conquest and designer Neil Irish breathe audacious new life into the play’s most familiar aspects. The three witches (here, two female, one male) are brittle, child-like and almost mechanical in their movements. Lighting designer Mark Dymock drenches them in white light, making many of their scenes genuinely terrifying.

This is an inspirational, hard-edged production, for those who like their Shakespeare both shaken and stirred.

Amid the noise and turmoil, GSC regular Jack Whitam gives a many-layered performance as Macbeth: haunted, frightened, tortured and eventually unravelling. Stella Taylor as his wife is elegant and ferocious, driving her husband on. It’s not hard to glimpse in them many an ambitious Surrey couple.

Haunted: Macbeth (Jack Whitam) confronts his fears.

Nathan Ives-Moiba is excellent as Macduff, a clear-eyed, loyal warrior. The scene in which he learns of the callous murder of his wife and children is deeply moving. Sarah Gobran also convinces as Banquo. The murdered Banquo’s haunting of the feast is arresting and unforgettable.

Macbeth, blood-stained and unravelling (Jack Whitam).

GSC co-founder Matt Pinches believes equivocation lies at Macbeth’s heart: the art of saying one thing while doing another. Then, just as now perhaps, for those in power lies come more easily than truths. Maybe, in the weird sisters whose predictions drive the play, we can even see an echo of Dominic Cummings et al – the advisers who whisper dangerous temptations and change the course of history.

The production comes with a content warning, for violence, war, murder, infanticide and the supernatural. Those in need of fortifying beforehand may wish to head a few steps down the road, where the GSC’s restaurant partner, The Ivy Castle View, is serving limited edition cocktails, the Pink Lady Macbeth and Banquo’s Ghost.

This is an inspirational, hard-edged production, for those who like their Shakespeare both shaken and stirred.

Macbeth continues at Holy Trinity Church until February 29 2020. Box office tel. 01483 304384,

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