The Wokingham Paper

Gripping reimagining of Macbeth with female lead

USHERED into the dark halls of the Reading Minister, an eerie and clinical tone is set for Hal Chambers’ interpretation of Macbeth.

Set in the centre of the room, audience members face all four sides of the stage, opening the room into an immersive space to explore the horrors of the Scottish play.

With translucent plastic acting as stage curtains, the set itself acts as a backdrop to many a gruesome murder scene. 

And yet the play is unlike its predecessors, with Chambers reimagining Macbeth as a female lead, the play transgresses its typical retelling.  

This radical adaptation, dominated by a brutal woman marked by her barren past, explores the ambitions of a childless Queen. The opening scene is perhaps more poignant than other adaptations, beginning with the ambitious couple grieving the death of their newborn. 

Staged in such a way, Chambers drives the question as to whether the death of their child in the opening scene spurs forward the relentless murdering streak in both parties. 

Jessica Baglow plays Macbeth, perfectly delivering the language of Shakespeare in such a way that audiences lose themselves in the emotive dialogue. Baglow delivers her performance with conviction and an openness that drives the human-side of Macbeth to the forefront. 

Yet Macbeth’s character isn’t the only one to face changes. Duncan [Jordan Whyte] is presented as a strong and willful Queen to two sons, whose death appears even more tragic in such light. And Macduff [Charlotte Wyatt] becomes the epitome of female grief at the loss of her entire family, shedding tears onto the stage floor. 

Particular commendation must go to Oliver Bennet, who in the role of Lord Macbeth uses physical drama to portray his psychological decline to harrowing extremes. Manipulating his body to the maximum, the way that Bennet occupies space on stage embodies the mental trauma of his character.

Carefully considered sound and lighting, paired with a stripped-back cast and a handful of props all contribute to an immersive experience.

Lighting designer, Michael Brenkley and sound designer Joe Morris have captured the essence of a horror film and translated it for the stage, using the dark corners of the Minister to add eerie depth to an otherwise empty scene. 

With limited staging, the storytelling comes down to the physical presence of the cast, with Sabina Netherclift’s direction of movement carrying the weight of the narrative.

The Reading Between The Lines adaptation of Macbeth is showing at the Reading Minister until Saturday, November 9. 

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