The Bunker Trilogy: Macbeth

William Shakespeare

Jethro Compton Productions

C nova

From 30 July 2014 to 25 August 2014

Rating: ***

Review by David Chadderton

The set (and the punishing seating) is identical to Agamemnon, but the method of adapting the familar story to the World War I setting is completely different.

Rather than creating a contemporary scenario based on the Scottish play, director/designer Jethro Compton uses Shakespeare's original text but not in the original order.

Like its Greek predecessor in the trilogy, it is set during a battle, in this case the final battle of the play, with the main events shown in flashback. So we see Macbeth hear the news of his wife's death over the bunker telephone right at the start, before we flash back to the blasted heath where he and Banquo meet the Witches.

The audience is utilised as extra witches—and later as guests at the banquet—in addition to sinister actors made faceless with the aid of gas masks. The play keeps jumping to the battle and back, until the flashbacks catch up with the present and we hear repeats of earlier dialogue in abbreviated form.

Largely, the play works in its bunker setting, although it is questionable whether it adds anything other than making it a part of this trilogy. However Lady Macbeth's death was a little odd, to say the least, and replacing swords with guns is always disappointing—instead of ending with a sword fight and the holding up of the head of the tyrant, we get "lay on, Macduff", bang, blackout.

There are strong performances all round once again from the same cast as the other plays, despite an occasional tendency to declaim. Sam Donnely takes the role of Macbeth, Bebe Sanders is Lady Macbeth, Hayden Wood is Banquo and James Marlowe is Macduff.

It's a brave attempt at creating an energetic production of this play with just four actors that largely works and creates an intense atmosphere with its impressive setting.