The Poles are coming to Edinburgh with a vengeance this year: the Adam Mickiewicz Institute is promoting visual, musical, dance and theatre work all over the fringe and international festival programmes, starting with this spectacular hour-long outdoors version of Macbeth late night in the university's historic main quadrangle.
Only five or six lines of the play, produced by the Teatr Biuro Podrozy and directed by Pawel Szkotak, are spoken in broken English, including the show’s subtitle: “Who is that bloodied man?” (Shakespeare’s King Duncan actually says, of the battle-scarred captain, “What bloody man is that?”)
The rest is not silence, but a sustained old-fashioned avant-garde blast of roaring motorbikes, black-cloaked witches striding about on huge stilts, flaming torches and the wailing lamentation of a singer on a scaffolded platform.
Watching from a balustrade beneath the glowering night sky is like witnessing a compressed genocidal insurgency in an Eastern European nightmare: opponents of the tyrant are shot at point blank range; Lady Macbeth leads the “new broom” approach by literally sweeping the stage clear, accompanied by military personnel; and Macbeth is hunted down by the witches and consumed in fire at the castle.
Apart from the wailing singer, there’s a continual crashing electronic rock soundtrack, a carnival of skulls as huge black tree poles are removed one by one from the arena and a fulsomely naked Lady M considers the indelible stains of blood on her hands.
We have no Porter, no Macduff family, no English scene – as has been well said, this is much more texture than text – but it’s also more of a theatrical installation than a show. And we could have seen it at any time over the past thirty years. It will be interesting to know if the next Polish Macbeth, from TR Warszawa on the international programme next week, is any more urgent, “alive” or compelling.