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Macbeth (Barbican)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Watching this impressively drilled Macbeth from the Wroclaw-based Song of the Goat company is like watching a very good drama school production with extra special lighting and musical effects.

By which I mean there’s a seamless, poetic whole to the eighty-minute work – “organic” is the term one cannot avoid – without the rough, bright edge of flashing, individual talent or engulfing sense of tragedy.

It’s far less exciting, for instance, than Lucy Bailey’s recent revival at the Globe, which re-investigated the evil spirit of the play as a setting for some fine tragic performances, not as a definition of them.

The first surprise is that the text is spoken in English, distilled and channeled through the actors, who claim no special hierarchy in relation to each other (which is somewhat self-defeating in a play about a regicide, a ruined country and political power).

The witches’ incantations run like a ripple through the actors, alternating with some stunningly beautiful liturgical chorales, Corsican and Georgian; and the pulse is set by the virtuoso musician Rafal Habel, seated at the side with his percussive instruments and his stringed Korean kayagum.

In this real sense, the performance is one sustained small-scale chant, with night sounds and knockings etched on the same dark canvas and the horror democratically shared around all participants, played with no variation (there is no Porter), the action skimmed on one level of intensity.

The properties of sticks, tables and shields, too, are as choreographed as the seven actors in Grzegorz Bral’s unyielding production; and the old-fashioned feeling of an experimental workshop not dented by the Geordie-sounding Gabriel Gawin as Macbeth and Song of the Goat co-founder (with Bral) Anna Zubryzcki as his blood-curdling lady.


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