Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Macbeth, Harrogate Theatre - 8th May 2015

Photo credit: Tara Arts

Jatinder Verma's production of Shakespeare's Macbeth, jointly presented by Tara Arts and Black Theatre Live, has been touring the country between February and May 2015. Seeing it at the last venue on the tour, Harrogate Theatre, Macbeth is presented with an Asian twist.

The setting is in the midst of an Asian British Family and the murder of Duncan is considered as patricide, family linked, not regicide.  Verma is keen to explore the strong themes Macbeth bring which can relate to a family setting as much as a monarch one. These include honour, superstition, faith, identity, desire, ambition and so on which are driven with expectations.

The key characters in the play remain intact.  One notable change in the production are the colourful Indian hijras, drag queens, who replace the witches.  They define themselves belonging to the spirit world which links to Ardh-Narishwar, the half-man half-woman god.

Robert Mountford plays a convincing Macbeth and meets the troubled character's requirements.  The same goes for Shaheen Khan as Lady Macbeth.  The acting ties in nicely with the Indian/Asian percussion played by Rax Timyr with precision and creates the compelling atmosphere and mood the play demands.  

There are some blurred moments identifying the exact location - it is felt sometimes the action happening in Scotland, in the castle or the battlefield instead of the family's suburbia! Nevertheless it is interesting to see a contemporary, open and ambitious interpretation of one of Shakespeare's popular tragedies.  Verma proves how versatile Macbeth is and how its strong themes and messages can be applied in any era and setting!

The staging is simple and effective allowing for maximum interpretation of this production with flexibility of the characters in which they play multiple roles.  This ensures smooth transitions between the scenes and the characters.

Certainly a unique production with an Asian twist and reliving the appreciation Macbeth deserves.

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