I was eager for this production once I saw Moira Buffini’s name attached. Having seen her Screenwriters lecture at Bafta and finding much to admire in her approach to adapting and reimaging old texts this came with a mark of class.
The two leads, a welcome gender switch, reimagined as women are both memorable and enchanting
Here she is responsible for an abridged adaptation with Natasha Nixon directing.
As the third and final part of the The National Youth Theatre’s West End season, Macbeth suggested they were aiming to go out on a dramatic high, and they nearly managed it.
Perhaps it was the lack of an interval or the sheer bravery in trying to do something wholly different with something so tried and tested but I found it a slightly unbalanced experience. That’s not to say it didn’t contain some ace moments but I struggled to find myself fully moved, absorbed or engrossed in the atmosphere and action at times.
Whilst it lacks polish, it certainly has some stand out elements amongst its attempts to go hard before sending us home. The two leads, a welcome gender switch, reimagined as women are both memorable and enchanting. Isabel Adomakoh Young and Olivia Dowd do for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth what few productions manage to do, make us care in a new way. Here there is wrought emotion, offbeat intimacy and a touch of innovation with the central conceit of their childlessness.
Other performances fail to captivate as cleverly and lack that cache but the witches are as fun here as they always tend to be, for me they were demonic and devilish, like a living embodiment of a Gerald Scarfe sketch, especially when placed against Mayou Trikerioti’s sparse set design.
There is still much that can be done with the right dash of fearlessness
Much of this is an exercise in potential, like a lot of NYT work and the signs of what is to come leave you clearly hopeful, excited and eager to keep an eagle eye on many involved. I particularly enjoyed the smaller yet key contributions of Oseloka Obi, Marilyn Nnadebe and Fred Hughes-Stanton.
Overall the innovation and refreshing way this is embraced by the cast and company is what lingers longest in the memory. It proves that there is still much that can be done with the right dash of fearlessness and fun when approaching not only Shakespeare but drama which has to come to life and exist, in the present and pose questions of what we see, hear and feel everyday.