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Macbeth review at Bussey Building, London – ‘frequently thrilling’

Henry Proffit and Cameron Crichton in Macbeth at Bussey Building, London. Photo: Scott Rylander Henry Proffit and Cameron Crighton in Macbeth at Bussey Building, London. Photo: Scott Rylander

The post-apocalyptic future evoked in Devil You Know’s Macbeth feels uncomfortably close to the present. Mike Lees’ bare set, on which the flak-jacketed, feuding warlords play out their deadly power games, brings to mind war-torn Raqqa or bombed-out Mogadishu. Among heaps of rubble and detritus, the black-veiled witches scheme and set the wheels of destiny in motion.

Henry Proffit cuts a paranoid figure as Macbeth: his unease is as much a driver of bloody deeds as his unfettered ambition. While his murderous soliloquies are rattled off quickly, undermining his sense of purpose, Sadie Pepperrell’s Lady Macbeth never wavers. Her performance is steely, beguiling and deeply unsettling.

As Banquo, the man who knew too much, Cameron Crighton is suitably wary while alive and grimly foreboding in the banquet scene. Jared Fortune (also responsible for the atmospheric sound effects) shines as the gruffly valiant Macduff, cut to the quick at the news of his family’s slaughter, and Guy Dennys’ baby-faced Malcolm grows rapidly from wide-eyed exile to avenging heir.

The ensemble moves the action deftly from scene to scene, rarely passing up the chance to indulge in gruesome acts of brutality, enacted with coshes, knives and machetes. And in this testosterone-steeped world, the threat of sexual violence is never far away, a grim reminder of its pervading presence in war zones of all eras.

Though occasionally drifting from the play’s white-knuckle intensity, this blood-spattered account is convincing and frequently thrilling.

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Atmospheric, violent take on Shakespeare’s ambition-fuelled tragedy