Big Telly Theatre Company have expanded their virtual theatre programming this month with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The production was presented as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival last week but will move to hosts Creation Theatre this week running until the 31st October and with its dark undertones and moments of suspense its the perfect Halloween treat.
Logging into the virtual theatre portal I am filled with excitement and anticipation. Macbeth is a play I have studied for years and a production I have seen in various forms from physical theatre to the National Theatre but the Big Telly treatment is always very unique and is always a special experience.
Grabbing some salt and pulling close the curtains (as instructed) I enter a daily briefing with our fictional Prime Minister, his Chief Scientific Advisor and the Minister of Economy. Straight from the off we are introduced to Big Telly’s style of bringing a text into the here and now, making the Scottish play relevant to the current pandemic and relevant to a modern audience. With some playful interaction (in which I received a false/negative result) it is our first glimpse of witches and it is a stroke of genius. Add in a few digs to the current prime minster on the closure of theatres and I’m sold.
Dharmesh Patel, Lucia McAnespie and Aonghus Óg McNally are the first characters we see on screen but they work hard for their buck performing every other role other than the Macbeths. They shine as servants, Banquo and the Macduffs. However as an ensemble they are the best encarnation of the witches I have ever seen. Shakespeare’s sprites and shapeshifters become very real and very human. In the final scenes they portray stage hands and actors and marionettes, they are the perfect mix of stagecraft and witchcraft. Powerful, dramatic but still just cogs in the system even if they are pulling the ropes. So like all good theatre should it makes me question the text. It makes me question Macbeths downfall was it his fate or is his greed and want? Is this greed a pandemic which is sweeping the nation? Is greed hampering the current pandemic?
The Macbeths are a duo dark and moody but human and relatable. Macbeth played by Dennis Herdman is charming but manic he breaks the fourth wall (if there is such a thing in virtual theatre) speaking directly to the camera with his asides and monologues. Lady Macbeth played by Nicky Harley is first seen relaxing in her chambers, we are a fly on the wall (very big brother-esque) she is calm and reclined however as the story progresses we get closer and closer to her with close up shots of just her face and eyes. Nicky is astounding in her final scenes as we see her descending into madness as an audience member you wish to reach out and grab her, protect her.
With the fantastic lighting moving from black and white to technicolour and splashes of red, the dramatic score and the use of some VR and video tricks an extra element of magic is brought to the production. Think the scottish play mixed with the Blair Witch project if it was recorded in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. I enjoyed every moment of it and immersed myself into this world and I was rewarded with nail biting, hairs standing on the back of your neck moments. Honestly this production had me on the edge of my seat throughout and it actually felt like I was experiencing a brand new tale.
Catch it if you can as I’m sure this will be a production which our grandchildren will be studying in future lessons.
Emer D xx
Macbeth runs until 31st October grab tickets now at creationtheatre.co.uk.
Macbeth played by