Macbeth, Tobacco Factory, 3rd-20th September
The play that must not be named... I named it. I tweeted about it, and now I've reviewed it... There are exciting things afoot at the Tobacco Factory at the moment. Not only is the programme absolutely jam-packed with tasty performances in the coming months, but the theatre is now embarking on its first foray into producing shows, instead of just hosting them.
Macbeth (sue me) is a co-production between Filter Theatre and Tobacco Factory, the former having already won praise for their contemporary interpretations of classic pieces such as Brecht’s ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle’ and Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’. The partnership between this exciting collective and the theatre will hopefully be the start of a new era for one of Bristol’s favourite arts venues, as they not only produce their own theatre pieces, but also help cultivate a new generation of writers, directors, actors and technicians from the city and surrounding area. We like that.
Now onto the meaty stuff – what was the show like? We were definitely in for something a bit different and eccentric – as we walked in past a table in the centre of the stage, filled with various old machines of questionable purpose.
As it turned out, these machines were the instruments of our ‘witches’ in the piece, providing the show with electronic effects and soundscapes that wouldn’t feel out of a place in a ‘70s Doctor Who episode, or even ‘A Clockwork Orange’ at darker moments. By turns the sounds are playful, suspenseful or sinister, but most of all just give a quirky edge to proceedings and later on really drum home the psychotic unravelling of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, albeit in a slightly more light-hearted manner.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say that this is a fresh and eccentric take on a play which had most of us avoiding eye contact with the teacher at school in a bid not to be picked to read. There’s little room to be bored in this production, between the weird soundtrack, creative lighting and odd choices of props. this will possibly be the first time any of you have seen Shakespearean characters share a packet of Skips on stage. (*Editors note: correct - Hamlet would definitely not have shared them)
The condensed cast are energetic and play a variety of characters throughout but without changing costumes, voices or accents much, which can make things confusing. The unique approach of this interpretation also means that at times you may find yourself at a loss for what part of the stage to focus on, or who to listen to. But perhaps this all just adds to the general chaos and energy of the show.
Overall, Filter and Tobacco Factory have been brave and bold with their first production, and even if Macbeth won’t be to everyone’s tastes with its erratic style, it certainly has everything in place to be an exciting oddball draw for Shakespeare and theatre fans far beyond the limits of Bristol.