In Zinnie Harris’ adaptation of ‘The Scottish Play’ we’re immersed into Macbeth’s disorder and witness as he loses his sanity and ability to sleep due to murderous acts. Led by Adam Best and Nicole Cooper as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the cast of Macbeth (an undoing) take us on a hell of a journey as we navigate murder, treason, gender politics and various nuances in the great Shakespearian tragedy.
Written and directed by Harris, there is a clear juxtaposition of the modern with the original, as we hear more contemporary dialogue interjecting the renowned, quotable Shakespearian writing. The combination is seamless, it’s not always easy to decipher where one begins and the other ends. In scenes where it’s Macbeth instead of Lady Macbeth we hear cry the iconic ‘out damned spot’ line, it’s clear that the characters have been switched. So much so that Lady Macbeth oft has to fight to be seen as a woman, once the Thanes insist on her being referred to as Lord Macbeth.
A clever script with some solid acting, Macbeth (an undoing) keeps the audience on their toes, as it starts to feel like we too should be driven to Malcolm’s chamber in our own madness, unsure of what might happen next with these Harris nuances. Pertinent to the play is Cooper of course, who plays a stoic and unfaltering Lady Macbeth whose dialogue reminds us of where we are sat, in the theatre, as she is found to be using Brechtian techniques throughout the play, alluding to the space and the drama of what the audience is witnessing. With a stripped-back set design that includes Malcolm’s chamber and murder-site plus stark lighting from Tom Piper, it certainly bodes well to play with the sanity of the theatre-goer. These all combine to make this reimaging of the great Scottish play immersive, so much so that you’re not quite sure when it will all end and you can regain your nerves.
Macbeth (an undoing) runs at the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh till 25th February. More info here.