The National Youth Theatre’s Macbeth – the third and final instalment of the company’s 2018 West End season – is the third Scottish Play to open in London in almost as many weeks.
It’s not the most polished, or the most atmospheric, but it’s easily the most fun.
Natasha Nixon’s production, using an abridged and adapted text by Moira Buffini, is a wildly eclectic fever dream. It throws a lot at the play to see what sticks.
The witches are a trio of bizarrely shaped, horribly lurid demons. The costumes are a hodgepodge of black tunics, contemporary clothing and tweed. And it all unfolds swiftly – there’s no interval – on Mayou Trikerioti’s simple set, lit starkly by Derek Anderson and underscored ominously by Max Pappenheim.
Most significantly, though, it reimagines Macbeth – and Duncan for that matter – as women. It’s a welcome gender-switch, and it does interesting things to the play, not least putting a new slant on Macbeth and Lady Macbeth being childless. Isabel Adomakoh Young and Olivia Dowd bring real emotion, real intimacy to the central relationship.
The performances are patchy, but as ever with NYT, there are glimmers of real brilliance. Sometimes it’s the smaller roles that stand out. Fred Hughes-Stanton, excellent in Consensual, only has bit-parts to play here, but has a watchable swagger about him nonetheless. Christopher Williams is also good, bringing a refined articulacy to his upright, slightly awkward Malcolm.
A refreshingly inventive take on Macbeth, that’s thankfully unafraid of mixing it up a bit.