Oxford Shakespeare Company is next month celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first-ever performance of Macbeth at Hampton Court Palace, where the Bard’s tragedy is believed to have premiered on the same date in 1606 in the presence of James I. To mark the milestone, the company will perform its production of the play - featuring an all-male cast of 18, with choral chanting and music from instruments including rams’ horns, scaffold poles and didgeridoos - at Hampton Court from 4 to 7 August 2006,.

Macbeth is directed by Chris Pickles, whose previous OSC productions have included The Winter’s Tale, The Comedy of Errors and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Pickles told Whatsonstage.com: “It’s pretty daunting really. It’s a production I directed last year and then we were approached by Hampton Court – I think they came to us because we’re used to dealing with site-specific theatre. What I’ve done with this really is I started with last year’s production and adapted it for Hampton Court to fill the space of the Palace, so we’ve introduced a lot more actors into the company and changed parts of it.

“I am really thrilled and excited to be doing this production. Macbeth is one of those remarkable stories that combines so many elements that audiences over 400 years have revelled in – magic, mystery, murder, there’s even a love story in there, and battles and excitement, pomp and circumstance and spectacle. A touch of witchcraft never did anybody any harm.”

Pickles added: “Of course, what many people don’t know is that the bad luck that is associated with Macbeth came about because traditionally when theatre companies were in a bad state they tended to put it on because it was so popular. So actually it became associated with theatre companies that were in trouble because it is so good, not because it is unlucky!”

Macbeth is the final offering in OSC’s 2006 summer season. The other productions - of The Taming of the Shrew and The Importance of Being Earnest - are staged at Hampton Court Palace and at the company’s regular venue, Wadham College, Oxford. Following its limited run of four performances at Hampton Court Palace, Macbeth will visit Lincoln’s Inn in London from 8 to 19 August 2006.

- by Caroline Ansdell