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Nick Hastings' adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy at the Cockpit Theatre could be tightened but features excellent performances with a poignant touch

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Paparazzi scrambling for a quote is an unlikely start to one of Shakespeare's plays but it is the way Mac in the City, a modern twist on Macbeth, begins.

Nick Hastings' dramatic retelling of Shakespeare's bloodiest tragedy transforms the play into a tale of a modern banking crisis. The audience meet Duncan, the autocratic managing director of the investment bank Dunsinane Hill, and he has a rival to the top job in the form of Macbeth.

Amid Starbucks coffee cups, mobile phones, computers and video screens, this Cockpit theatre production cleverly depicts characters caught in the traps and trappings of modern life. Shakespeare's plot eerily fits this modern setting, the regal aspirations of the tragic hero are not too far removed from the greedy capitalist dream in which money and power corrupt.

The witches who guide Macbeth down the wrong path are portrayed as members of the press, which is perhaps taking the demonisation of the press a bit far. The drama develops towards the end through the use of film as we see some of the main characters interviewed on screen. This effectively makes its point about the power of the media in the world today.

Despite some excellent performances, particularly by Steven Maddocks and Danielle Stagg as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, there are times when the modernisation doesn't quite work. This is perhaps partly because Shakespeare's language doesn't always fit with the setting so the drama sometimes shifts from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Maddocks, however, pulls the production together with his powerful interpretation of Macbeth's transformation from a naive and impressionable young man to a tormented soul in middle age. The staging and costumes work well throughout: we see Banquo in a silk dressing grown and Lady Macbeth in slinky pencil trousers, as Hasting's cleverly reinvents the characters.

This production is three hours long, and could have perhaps have been condensed down further. However, full credit must be given to the cast who deliver their soliloquies and monologues with great power and conviction.

Shakespeare's deathless lines become even more poignant when translated into a setting with which the audience are familiar, revealing the true power of the eternal truths about human nature captured in the words of the great playwright.

- Sarah Marsh


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