The story of Macbeth, or The Scottish Play has got to be one of the most retold Shakespearean stories within the past 400 years. Chronicling the unlikely ascent of a king with no immediate links to the throne, Macbeth, and his wife, one of the greatest strategist to grace the literary world Lady Macbeth prepare to unapologetically shed the blood of others for the ultimate prize.
So with a story that is frequently told, how can it be interpreted and adapted from a fresh angle? Joel Scott‘s The Devil Speaks True observes the scheming of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth through the eyes of the ill fated Banquo. The cold hearted protagonists are reserved to voices that play in headphones provided to the audience. This convention is exciting from the get go, it starts a conversation as to how the story will play out. Will the voices act as a narrator coercing the story along? Will the voices vocalise the mindset of Banquo, of Macbeth, of Lady Macbeth throughout the evening? Will there be a soundscape provided throughout the evening to accompany the darkness? The answer to this question, the experience is more a fly on the wall collage, than being concise. The very heavy topic of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is brought into play from the plays beginnings, and I feel the subject matter subtly plays throughout the evening but never truly stops me in my tracks. I leave also wanting to know more about Banquo, seeing as the evening is from his perspective, Macbeth becomes the true star.
Recent history plays out as we are transported to the harsh deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. Speech playing through headphones tussle between 21st century prose and dexterous Shakespearean text. The convention is brave, however confuses due to the era being referred to. Initially written in the late 1500s, there are parallels in terms of warfare, however my personal preference would be for the company to immerse itself in the Shakespearean text, but with a modernised setting, however I am sure other opinions may differ.
Mystery glistens the evening, with the evening’s literal and metaphorical incorporation of darkness. That idea of never quite knowing when the Macbeth’s will strike heightens the evening. This alone could form the basis for a horror inspired piece looking at the quietly fearsome couple. The only human contact we have during the evening is Brian Lonsdale‘s Banquo. His physicality captivating as he shrivels, curls up and tangles himself, signifying the pain experienced in the tragic tale. Alex Vipond‘s projections are stunning. This is the main source of light in the theatre, and it unveils a series of scenarios from silhouetted characters to elemental backdrops from an illustrious green forest to a barren, unforgiving desert. These projections, the bold soundscape provided by Dominic Kennedy and Lonsdale’s physicality make the production an ‘experience’, rather than a piece of theatre, which is great. The evening is hallucinogenic, an experiment between the use of verbatim-esque sound bites, Shakespearean text and the technological which with some fine tuning can really make for thought provoking theatre. 3.5/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
The Devil Speaks True is currently playing at the Vaults, as part of The Vaults Festival until Saturday 27th February. For more information on the production, visit here…