Macbeth at the Omnibus
It’s not often during a theatre show you experience the presence of actors so near. You can anticipate the beads of sweat yet to form on the brow of the most wrought and despairing villain, close enough that the copious amounts of blood dripping from guilty hands may find its way onto your best walking shoes.
In Omnibus’ promenade production of Macbeth, blood, sweat and tears were spilled on a number of natural stages in this modernised construction. Tape and video excerpt recordings of the text were used to find common ground between an ultra-modern show of resources and the ADD-inducing dryness that can ensue from a run-of-the-mill production of Shakespeare’s most harrowing portrayal of cause and effect.
The mood was filled with a slight awkwardness from the mixed audience in the first two scenes, perhaps due to the familiar backdrop of the South London common jarring with the uncertain degree of audience participation. A comfortable relationship was established later on. Spectators were placed at the tail of the pursuant Sergeant, simulating a chase and adding intensity to the piece.
The manipulation of the viewer’s positioning cleverly reflected the shifts in power of the characters, bringing the action closer. The second meeting of the witches resulted in the audience surrounding the supernatural figures reciting their incantations over a fire raging on the dried-up children’s pond – a far cry from the daytime family space, making the spectacle all the more menacing. Rather than being ushered from set to set, the audience was intertwined in the story – not just voyeurs of Lady Macbeth’s (Jennifer Jackson) night terrors, but noted guests in the banquet scene and eye-witnesses to an intense Macbeth’s (Gregory Finnegan) mental deterioration.
Lady McDuff (Hannah James-Scott) in particular shone in her various roles. The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth became more believable in the latter half of the play, perhaps finding comfort in the more familiar inside space of the Omnibus. The set was excellently considered, reflecting a convincing darkness throughout; the various entry and exit points made good use of the space and provided unexpected displays of direction.
The sense of unity of the audience by the final scenes was palpable. This was a surprising and unconventional journey taken through a familiar but unsettling play.
Photo: Tom Parker
Macbeth is on at the Omnibus until 29th of November 2014, for further information or to book visit here.