William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Macbeth, is presented with a contrasting comical approach by Tap the Table productions at the Blue Orange Theatre. For Tap the Table’s fourth production, the audience is transported to rural Scotland where a minimal cast attempt to present all 42 characters through fast-paced costume changes and multi-rolling in an updated plot line for modern audiences. In this new adaptation, the audience truly are presented with “one of the Bard’s most well known plays as something completely different.”
Overall the company presented a nice twist on this classic tragedy and the plot changes made proved the company's astute awareness of Shakespeare’s excessive use of irony and foreshadowing within his plays and this enhanced the comedy well. Ashlee Sopher undoubtedly brought something comically new to the role of Macbeth and presented an innovative interpretation on the Bard’s classic villain hero. At times the production felt quite basic, with a lack of set, technical elements and unsure comedy - some bizarre moments occurred in Act One where it felt like the actors were pushing for laughs and continuing the comedy further than intended.
Contrasting the initial comedy, Act Two explored a lesser-known theme within Macbeth: depression and mental illness. Cleverly punned into the title 'Macbeth Gone Mental,’ the theme of mental illness became the core of the narrative in Act Two. This was explored through the use of soliloquy moments where the audience were hit with some strong anecdotal monologues, detailing experiences of depression and mental illness in modern society. Therese Robinson excelled in these moments and nicely linked into her role as Lady Macbeth in the following scenes. The exploration of Lady Macbeth's mental health was fascinating as a concept, but the execution was at times confusing and lacked consistency. It felt very much that the mental illness aspects were compartmentalised into Act Two, but not properly explored in Act One. Nevertheless, this was a great concept and worked well in following scenes where Macbeth’s ignorance to his wife’s illness reflects our 21st Century society’s ignorance to depression.
To overcome the limited cast, it became apparent that the production would rely heavily on tech and set. The fast-paced costume changes were mostly completed by another two in the cast (Wayne Ingram and Thomas Liversidge) and although the costume changes helped the narrative of characters well, with a lack of set elements and limited tech it was still, at times, rather hard to follow the setting. As someone who knows Macbeth very well, even I was left confused as to where we were for certain moments. There's scope for more to be done with set and tech to enhance the strong concepts behind this show.
Despite this, Tap the Table presented an interesting concept that brought a new light to Shakespeare’s classic tragedy in celebration of his 400th Anniversary year. Supported by the University of Northampton, there are plans for Tap the Table to continue the tour of Macbeth Gone Mental across the UK so keep up to date for future news at tapthetable.com.
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