It looks like 2018 will be the year of Macbeth. The National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company have new productions taking to the stage within a week of each other in March. Then there is Verdi’s Macbeth being done by The Royal Opera, and a new film of the play, again in March.
Beating everyone to the start line, though, is Mark Bruce’s haunting new dance theatre interpretation for his Mark Bruce Company, which opens at the Merlin Theatre in Frome later this month before embarking on a national tour.
Following on from his enormous recent successes with Dracula and The Odyssey, Bruce is again bringing his own thoughts and imagination to the story. As it charts the bloody chain of events that leads to the downfall of the leading couple, Macbeth promises to be just as compelling.
Bruce promises to take the audience into the treacherous Macbeths’ (played by Jonathan Goddard and Eleanor Duval) toxic world of jealousy, ambition and corruption as they ruthlessly pursue power. Set in a supernatural and brutal underworld, both tragic and beautiful, the work comes with a horror film atmosphere of menace and murder.
Macbeth is a human tale, about real people and Bruce doesn’t set out to make people hate the couple, however. “People do things in certain situations. It’s often difficult to get your head around why they sometimes do such awful thing, but then we’ve not lived the lives they’ve lived. I think, as human beings, we all have these incredible dark things inside us that we’re all capable of given the right situation and circumstance. The vicious pursuit of power to fill a void will always be relevant. The Macbeths are everywhere in every age, because they are a part of us.”
While remaining essentially true to the narrative and the characters, Macbeth is not simply a ‘dance of the play’. Dance is not the best medium to tell complicated stories, feels Bruce, and he has not been afraid to edit out things he felt didn’t quite work. Among other changes are that the witches have become a little bit chorus-like, at times almost angelic, at times some kind of abomination. Hopefully, he says, Macbeth will reach into peoples’ subconscious.
A sneak preview of Act II in the studio reveals that, once again, Bruce has created a production that is very cinematic and full of powerful and sometimes quite chilling images. Impressive ensemble dances sit comfortably alongside intimate, tender duets and strong solos, the movement a smooth blending of contemporary dance and classical ballet.
On the supernatural, Bruce says it is always present in Macbeth, “bending our own thoughts and perceptions as well as those of the protagonists. It infects us, always one step ahead, and Macbeth’s decisions are made in the world of a nightmare as if there is no separation between thought and action. Murder is done and descent is rapid.
“The Macbeths are mere playthings of the evil they set free, and in the madness and emptiness that ensues they become but walking shadows, or, as in my adaptation, simply clowns of sound and fury.”
For more, visit www.markbrucecompany.co.uk
Jan 25-27: Merlin Theatre, Frome; www.merlintheatre.co.uk or 01373 465949
Jan 31-Feb 1: Theatre Royal Winchester; www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk or 01962 840 440
Feb 8-9: DanceXchange, Patrick Centre, Birmingham Hippodrome; www.dancexchange.org.uk or 0844 338 5000
Feb 23-Mar 17: Wilton’s Music Hall, London; www.wiltons.org.uk or 020 7702 2789
Mar 23-24: DanceEast Ipswich; www.danceeast.co.uk or 01473 295 230
Apr 17-18: The Grand Theatre, Blackpool; www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk or 01253 290 190
May 1-2: Exeter Northcott Theatre; www.exeternorthcott.co.uk or 01392 726 363
May 10-12: Salisbury Playhouse; www.salisburyplayhouse.com or 01722 320 333
May 17-18: Stantonbury Theatre, Milton Keynes; www.stantonburytheatre.co.uk or 01908 324466