The Bunker Trilogy: Macbeth @ C Nova
The bunker of the play’s title is undoubtedly the star attraction of Jethro Compton’s immersive offering to the Fringe. The cramped performance space forces the cast to practically dance across the dirt-covered floor, kicking up clouds with their feet as they move. Fortunately, Compton’s direction is precise and detailed in the way the best choreography is, and his reimagining of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy of vaulting ambition as a trench-set tale of gas-induced deliriums and memories works to unsettling effect.
Opening with the downfall of the Thane of Glamis as he receives the news of his wife’s suicide and gives his famous “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech, Macbeth finds himself attacked by the gas mask clad witch-soldiers before flashing back to the events that led to his downfall. While remaining relatively faithful to the original text, scenes are cut and virtually all the other characters are removed except for the main pair, Banquo and MacDuff. Gas masks stand in for the supporting cast, which can make it a little difficult to keep up with who’s who, although they do provide the creepiest use of masks in entertainment since Doctor Who. This adaptation demands your attention and brainwork in piecing together the fragments and delusions. It’s definitely not for Shakespeare novices.
Most of the action focuses on the relationship between Macbeth (Sam Donnelly) and his wife (Serena Manteghi), as they go from doting sweethearts to scheming murderers smothered by guilt. Between this and Agamemnon, Manteghi shows herself to be an immensely talented actor, playing her Lady Macbeth with an irresistible sweetness that makes her murderous plotting and ultimate madness all the more affecting.
While the setting continues to provide a wholly unique and voyeuristic experience to the proceedings, the trenches feel less natural to the story than they did with Agamemnon and the final part of the trilogy, Morgana, the excruciatingly tense finale being the exception. The experience evoked by the setting of Macbeth is as much a part of the performance as the play itself. Turn on your brain, take some refreshments and fully immerse yourself in the madness.