Scottish play is acclaimed at Grand Theatre

Rick Hoyle as Macbeth and Dan Blake as Banquo with attendants in Ribcaged's production of Macbeth
Rick Hoyle as Macbeth and Dan Blake as Banquo with attendants in Ribcaged's production of Macbeth

Ribcaged have done it again.

They have created a completely understandable, up to date and original version of a popular Shakespeare play, Macbeth. I say ‘popular’, but I wonder is it only school students who have to study and appreciate the Bard these days?

Not if the audience, comprising a good cross-section of ages, was anything to go by. It was a full house for the Grand and there was a real buzz of expectancy before the performance started, because any Ribcaged production is always eagerly anticipated.

Owen Phillips, artistic director and founder of Ribcaged Productions, said: “I have always loved the themes of power, control, paranoia and desire (in the play) which are just as relevant today.” His modern interpretation, with BBC-style news bulletins as back projection (ably read by Newscaster Keith Flood), created a vivid idea of a post-devolution Scotland descending into chaos. Indeed, all the projected ‘scenery’ (images of Scottish and Northumbrian castles as well as disaffected crowds bearing slogans and shouting) was as effective as any 11th century army. The setting, turning a state-of-mind, moody, blood-red as the play progresses, and the now-you see-it dagger, were clever touches.

The cast’s rendition was faithful. Richard Hoyle (Macbeth) performed flawlessly, carefully developing an air of disturbed guilt. Cassandra John-Baptiste’s Lady Macbeth conveyed passion as well as conniving ambition. Jeremy Rycroft’s versatility was once again in evidence, in his roles as Duncan, Porter, Old Man and Siward. The Witches, in their leather and lace, made a brave, if degenerate show, leaving the feeling that you wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark heath!