This production from South West Dance Theatre is not, as you might think from the title, a study of the ambitious scheming wife of Shakespeare’s play. It is here a‘re-interpretation’ of the Macbeth story, and since there are only two men in the cast of dancers, neither of whom play Macbeth, that probably explains the gender shift. There is virtually no dialogue; the re-interpreted story being put over entirely by a narrator reading it out. More of a travesty than a re-interpretation, this fantasy attempt to ‘modernise’ Macbeth has vanishingly little to do with Shakespeare’s play or 11th century Scotland, and bears hardly more than a passing resemblance to the realities of 21st century British politics that it presumably seeks to satirise. Macbeth as a prime minister dealing with her cabinet and the media; and words like austerity, democracy, public opinion etc. etc., really jar with the actual play; and to use virtually none of Shakespeare’s language in favour of this rather pedestrian prose seems perverse. “I was born by Caesarean” really does not compare with “Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”, does it?
Happily, however, the dancing is entirely another thing. The witches are wonderful, their sinuous moves, and their scuttling about up on points, are suitably eerie, and they even say their own lines, the ones that Shakespeare wrote for them, in a chillingly eldritch style (Though by their second appearance their words are spoken by the narrator. Why?). The choreography throughout the piece is excellent; the murders are murderous; the balletic fight scenes work; the ensemble work is tight and visually stunning. The whole would stand on its own merits, without the narration, as a complex but completely accessible and beautifully executed piece of modern dance.
John Christopher Wood