When we learned last year that Mark Bruce was going to premiere a new production of Macbeth,Â we immediatelyÂ markedÂ the dates in our calendar. We had seen andÂ loved his Dracula, a great example of clear storytelling in dance and stylish treatment of a pop-culture icon. Bruce’sÂ Dracula is aÂ fresh take on the Victorian classic withÂ neither mega-budget,Â norÂ pseudo-intellectual interpretations. In other words, with none of the excessesÂ which most narrative dance pieces seem toÂ fall prey to these days. We still remember how wellÂ the choreography served the story,Â andÂ how it managed to transcend the smallÂ space for which it was created. And this winningÂ formula is now used inÂ the company’sÂ adaptation ofÂ Macbeth.
AsÂ a choreographer who excels in dark drama, Mark Bruce’s choice of Shakespearean text should come as no surprise: MacbethÂ is a play about ambition, power, about the supernatural and the dark, a rich canvas for the always excellent Jonathan Goddard, who leads the cast in the title role.Â Renowned for being both technically and dramatically gifted,Â GoddardÂ is the idealÂ frame for Bruce’s tortured would-be-king, bringing sobriety to the quiet moments, red-blooded desire in his exchanges with Eleanor Duval’s powerfulÂ Lady Macbeth, and chilling self-hatred when everything comes crumbling down and paranoia sets in.
The production is visually arresting, sensorial even, and Arvo PÃ¤rtâ€™s musicÂ brings an almost religiousÂ layer to it. The stage at Wilton’s Music Hall is left relatively bare, setting an eerie mood, with characters emerging from literal darkness. The lighting by Guy Hoare guides us through the evening, with suggestions of crimson skies, funeral pyres and rivers of blood. A string of white lightsÂ at the edge of the stage is directed towards the audiences at eachÂ scene change, so that we cannot see the busy stage hands (a clever solution), while the storyÂ moves forward efficiently.
Designs are minimal but effective, particularly when it comes to the use of props and imagery: from a single dagger on a pedestal (Is this a dagger which I see before me?),Â to the witches, who wear feathered harpy-like hairpieces that disguise theirÂ deformedÂ faces (Fair is foul and foul is fair),Â from the scorpion tattoos worn by theÂ central charactersÂ (Oh, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!)Â to the use of blood and goreÂ (Hereâ€™s the smell of the blood still).
TheÂ movement is well structured, with Bruce filling the stage using a cast of nine. The choreography is sleek for the Macbeths (think sensual duets), yet slowly distorting as the story progresses. There is plenty ofÂ grounded movement, but it becomes contrastinglyÂ aerial during the dynamic battle scenes, andÂ there areÂ sectionsÂ that evoke Scottish courtly dances. As we reach the chilling prophetic scene where Macbeth is confrontedÂ by King Duncanâ€™s daughter (since he cannot be killed by “any man born of woman”), here accompanied by Macduff and Fleance, we are captivated by a version ofÂ MacbethÂ that is modern and full of sensorial impact. Do not miss the opportunity to catch it.
Macbeth continues at Wilton’s Music Hall in London, until 17 March. For more information and UK touring dates, visit theÂ Mark Bruce Company website.