The Tragedy of Macbeth

07/08/22

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

We first encountered Flabbergast Theatre at the Fringe in 2018 with their wonderfully immersive project, The Swell Mob, a site-specific evocation of a Victorian drinking den. Now the company returns to the Fringe to take on one of the bard’s most celebrated plays and we’re really excited to see what they do with it. Let’s face it, we’ve all seen Macbeth in its various shapes and guises – but I think it’s fairly safe to say we’ve never seen it quite like this.

When we enter the venue, the eight-strong cast are already reeling around the stage, plastered in mud and raving and flailing around like demented beings. After all, this is a play about the madness brought on by the seductive power of hubris, so it feels entirely appropriate. The lights go down and, one by one, the players slip into their roles, switching effortlessly from character to character, but that sense of lunacy is always lurking at their sleeves, ready to take over at any moment.

I don’t need to relate the plot, because it’s ingrained into most people from high school onwards – but this raucous, visceral reimagining of the story captures the essence of the piece more eloquently than pretty much any other production I’ve seen.

It explodes, it capers, it struts its fretful stuff upon the stage and signifies plenty, while the austere stone arches of The Roxy provide the perfect setting for its excesses.

Simon Gleave gives a powerful performance in the lead role and Briony O’Callaghan’s Lady Macbeth is also extraordinary. But Flabbergast are essentially an ensemble troupe and every single member of the cast gives one hundred percent to this, with the volume dialled up to eleven. My initial fears that, with such ferocity, the piece could become one-note are neatly sidestepped, with a brilliantly clownish diversion from Dale Wild in the role of the Porter – and, after an explosive climax, there’s a delicate, musical a cappella song to bring everything gently back to earth.

The Tragedy of Macbeth ends with a heartfelt standing ovation from the crowd and it is fully deserved. Don’t miss this, it’s a wonder to behold.

5 Stars

Philip Caveney

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