Please note spoiler alert!
Image Credit: RIFT
"The immersive RIFT Macbeth is certainly an overwhelming experience to savour and worth the ticket price. I had the deluxe package, which meant I would get a bed, an evening meal with the Macbeths and breakfast in the morning. The other packages required intrepid visitors to Borduria – the fictional country where all stories happen and where the rift leads us – to bring sleeping bags with them or sleep on campbeds inside the fortress (aka the Balfron Tower).
On first arriving at the tower one is greeted by Bordurian border control staff who take your luggage,your mobiles (no mobile phones inside the rift) and allow you to buy Bordurian rand to buy drinks inside Borduria. They encourage the groups of travellers to get to know each other and chat, as they will share the experience in the rift. In my group, many of the other travellers had seen The Drowned Man, and Macbeth seemed a logical choice. Then Uri, the friendly security guard, checks passports. The more creative people are in filling in their Bodurian visas, the more it alls to the fun. There were lots of hand drawn passport photos and several very well-known personas were borrowed for the evening. Uri escorts people in groups of 10 to the building and up to the rift – explaining that rifts can appear anywhere and are unpredictable. Our rift had us climbing through the barriers into the underground carpark – Uri left us at the gates and wished us luck.
Once inside we met the witches, crowding us around a burning oil drum, drawing us closer, circling round us and as a military Landrover and motorbike around, carrying Macbeth and his generals, where Shakespeare's text takes over and the witches deliver their prophecy. After that we are hurried into the building itself by our guide, Pyotr. Each group has a friendly guide who gets to know us, draws us into the action, explains what's happening, gives us gossip about other guides and situations, shoos us all along and become minor characters in the play as scenes unfold. All these guides, along with all the Bordurian natives, are very Eastern European in accent and behaviour. Inside the castle, each group has an apartment where there are portraits of the current king and photographs of the Macbeths – their wedding day, social occasions – all careful touches that we are in the home of these people and where they allegiance lies. The whole building really had a crumbling, spartan, 1980s Eastern European feel to it, the whole atmosphere worked well in that sense.
Main scenes were played out in front of us – Macbeth himself was very good, an intense, strong warrior with his eyes on the throne. Lady Macbeth was committed and power hungry; we see her convincing her husband that Banquo and his sons are a threat to their ascension and they must be killed. They speak in the apartment, we are close eavesdroppers on their discussions. Later on Pyotr rushes us out of the way as Macbeth comes storming down the stairs having 'murdered sleep' and during the sleepwalking scene, Lady Macbeth takes one of the group with her as she cannot be alone.
We attend the banquet, with a menu of vegetarian Eastern European food, and watch as Banquo's ghost appears, Macbeth begins to crack and witches crawl on the walls. Later the Weird Sisters, meet up with the group again – splitting us up, telling us stories, wanting us to write evil to help the spell. They were wonderfully strange, eerie and intimidating in equal measure. In every corridor there are armed militia, watching our every move.
Pyotr takes us to witness the horrific murder of Lady McDuff, which was intensely good and incredibly brutal - her killers were insane and totally vicious!! It was also done in a very nasty, realistic way, the body of her bloodstain child already lying broken in the corner of the room - the most powerful scene of the night for me.
During the siege as Macbeth sees the armies approaching, Pyotr took our group back to the apartment where we watched live newsfeed of the soldiers and them beginning to take the building. We could hear shouting and screaming in other parts of the building as the fighting got closer. What I didn't like so much, was the comedy angle that they went for during the televised part of the siege, with Uri the guard and his UriVision Song Contest and comedy characters discussing the political struggle. I found that really diluted it and lost the focus and the impetus of the battle for the throne. It sort of broke the mood for me, when the whole thing could have completely intense and frightening - the feeling that armed militia could break in at any moment and a serious newsfeed. As the comedy element was brought it, it also put the 'audience' in a different frame of mind. People were giggling where they could have been really intensely involved in the drama. This was the only weakness of the experience for me. That's when I started looking out over the amazing views of night time London, which are breathtaking from the 19th floor of this huge building.
A brutal knife fight between Macbeth and Macduff erupted in the apartment – afterwards we helped Pyotr clean blood off the bannisters. It was a wonderful experience to be part of and it must have been a logistical nightmare to get all the timings sorted so that all the groups saw all the key scenes and didn't overlap too much or miss anything. The guides worked extremely hard, getting us all up and down the stairs and herded into the right places while staying completely in character and pointing out details. Poor Pyotr got a little too close to one of the fights and got an accidental punch in the face to add to the drama!
A few people in my group left after the end of the battle and meeting the new king – all the royal portraits in the building were miraculously changed – but for those of us who stayed, there were bunkbeds at 1.30am and the return of our bags. Lady Macbeth came crashing into the rooms at 3am, with one of the witches and a few blood soaked guides (trying to climb into my bunk!), but it didn't really make sense. I presume it was a riff on the sleepwalking scene, but Lady Macbeth was already long dead, so it seemed a bit of a gimmick really, to make it worth having people there and a bit of horror. And it certainly provoked a reaction!
Definitely a fun experience and worth the trip. Such a strange, vast venue to run around in, and I'm glad that they took mobiles off everyone. The audience did interact with each other, making friends and sharing opinions, as well as the show and it very much added to the event that everyone felt part of the story and as though we had shared something fascinating and unique."
Sister Morticia's 'visa' to Borduria
(Photo credit: Sister Morticia)
By Sister Morticia
Macbeth, Balfron Tower
Friday, 11 July 2014
A big thanks to Sister Morticia for sharing her experience. Macbeth can also be found via its official website.