fringe: the bunker trilogy - macbeth

adelaide fringe: the bunker trilogy - macbeth
Tonight we returned to The Bunker for the final of the three plays in The Bunker Trilogy, Macbeth.

And while it's easy enough to say that they saved the best for last, I think in this particular case it's very true.

It wasn't quite as emotive as Morgana or Agememnon as they used the original Shakespearean text whereas the others used more natural language, but it's easily the most powerful of the three.

Being greeted by three silent standing figures in gas masks is enough to give anyone the creeps and the masks are used brilliantly throughout the show for both the Witches as well as various other sundry characters.

Director Jethro Compton and writer Jamie Wilkes have pared down the text from the play and focused in, for the most part, on the Macbeths, Banquo and the Witches.

And using only Shakespeare's words, even if they're thrown out of their usual order in a few spots, the story of Macbeth's rise to power, the betrayal of his friend and the collapse of his relationship with his wife is actually all you really need from the play.

Sam Donnelly is brilliant as Macbeth... there is something commanding about his presence, in all three plays, so his casting makes perfect sense. As does Hayden Wood's... that friendly, open quality he brought to Arthur and Aegisthus makes him an ideal Banquo (and there's something about the relative height difference between the two that manages to say a lot about Macbeth's ambition without it ever needing to be said aloud). And Bebe Sanders seems to fully understand the ruthlessness that it takes to be Lady Macbeth. Sadly James Marlow doesn't feature very much beyond a creepily limb-twisted turn as a Witch and an appearance as MacDuff in the final moments of the play... but it's somewhat understandable to anyone who has seen all three plays, since he throws himself into Agememnon with such passion that there can't be much left in the tank at that point in the evening.

But, as I said, it's mostly a relationship between the three characters.

There were a few great touches in this particular version... the first was using the audience, who are encased inside the titular bunker with the players, as first apparitions during the initial scene with the witches, and then later as the dinner guests during the banquet scene. It's a great way to utilise what you have when you don't have a giant cast to fill in as the crowd.

I also really liked the way they handle the demise of Lady Macbeth... to be honest I'm still not sure if it was real or imaginary, but it gives a hell of a different spin on her famous "out damn spot" scene, and one that I particularly like.

And as I mentioned, the use of gas masks for the Witches is creepily perfect... it makes them completely anonymous characters, makes them essentially faceless and changes the actors voices all in one fell swoop. I'm also not sure if it was intentional, but there's one point where a character is under a very bright light in a gas mask and the glass in the eyes was sending shafts of light onto walls and audience members with the aid of a little smoke machine magic.

There were also certain lines that both Donelly and Sanders put particular life into... it's easy enough with Shakespeare to merely recite the words, but it's quite another thing to be able to give them the raw emotion they need or to invent new moments of emotion on otherwise familiar lines and they both manage that very well.

I was also intrigued that given the way that the other two parts of the trilogy ended that the climactic battle scene between Macbeth and MacDuff is absent... it does feel a tiny bit abrupt, and given that the beheading of Macbeth is generally the point where the audience gets to feel relieved that justice has been served on the titular villain, a little odd.

All in all though, it's a great interpretation of The Scottish Play and a worthy finale to The Bunker Trilogy.

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