How do you do the Witches? must be a question that plagues every director who faces the challenge of tackling Macbeth. Sturdy Beggars' production (Bridewell Theatre, London EC4) begins with three young, nymph-like Witches blooding a man who later turns out to be the Captain - to the sound of ritual drumming and throbbing synthesizers. Something different is clearly being attempted, but what exactly left me wondering.
The question of the witches is not a trivial one especially in a production where director Stephen Jameson has chosen to have the Weird sisters invade all areas of the tragedy: from the banquet scene, lifting Banquo's bloody corpse on to Macbeth's seat at the dinner table, to being a dancing troupe in the Porter's knock-about turn, to holding the dagger before Macbeth. But why? The way you conceive them depends on how you see the tragedy unfold. Are the Witches in control? Or do they symbolise Macbeth's lack of belief in himself?. These witches neither control proceedings nor illuminate the "vaulting ambition" of Macbeth.
The homicidal, imposter king should terrify us when he "o'er leaps" his wife's lust for power and shows that he is no longer "too full o'the milk of human-kindness". Andrew Jarvis's Macbeth, however, is caught between his dry, ironic delivery and the full-blooded, hellhound-like tirade.
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