In a play in which one of the most famous lines is ‘unsex me here,’ Jennifer Innes’ gender swapped interpretation recreates the bloody world of Macbeth where women battle for their country and their crown as their husbands persuade them to betrayal in whispers. It explores the universality of the roles in all of their passion, vulnerability and conflict while also exploring a reversed landscape of both gender stereotypes and historical power dynamics.
Even in it’s rare presentation of an almost uncut text, Macbeth is one of the most rapid, suffocatingly intimate and forceful of Shakespeare’s plays. Trapping the characters between the wall and three branches of the audience, the play’s nature is further heightened as haunted soliloquies and bloody murders are performed within arms reach. Beneath the high wooden beams and intricate glass windows of the Bluestone Church Arts Space, their paranoid guilt truly comes alive.
The entire cast carries a strength and force throughout all their roles, and are an impressive sight in their ensemble battle scenes.Belinda Campbell stars as the warrior turned queen Macbeth, evolving from conflicted loyalty to numbed determination. Her fears and desires are chillingly human, visibly unnerved by both the prophecy and its hurdles and downing wine in an attempt to force herself to fulfill it. As Macbeth grows increasingly detached in paranoia, Alexandra Hines’ Macduff is engulfed with emotion, suffocating in grieving sobs and hunting for her vengeance with savage, terrifying fury. Jennifer Piper’s commanding presence as Banquo also gives Macbeth clear reason to fear her, triumphing even in death in a powerful staging of the witches’ final vision.
Chad O’ Brian’s Lord Macbeth takes his suggestion to play the snake beneath a floral facade to the letter, remaining interestingly mild and soft spoken right up until his grieving madness. His demure nature is completely at odds with the male Weird Sisters and their disheveled, frantic and manic portrayals. The rare inclusion of Hecate is also fascinating as one of the few characters be played in their traditional gender, maintaining the dominance of female power in both the mortal and the divine as the witches act as her disobedient yet fawning children.
Beneath the high wooden beams and intricate glass windows of the Bluestone Church Arts Space, their paranoid guilt truly comes alive
Allison Bell’s costumes are fantastic both visually and in the world building they provide, melding gender stereotypes in style and texture. Particular standouts include the sequined scale armour of the female warriors, blending traditional ideas of femininity both in our world and theirs. With ideas around masculine dress being fairly limited even today, the male attire within the play’s world is fascinating, with the flowing, high slitted trousers and intricate woven back pieces visually exploring different expectations of gender. Along with the casting itself playing with gendered expectations, the shift in language subtly adds to the exploration, noticeably in showing how pervasively masculinity is seen as the default in our world.
Both as a discussion of a gendered world and a powerful depiction of love, betrayal and the supernatural, wit incorporated’s Macbeth is not to be missed!