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Macbeth at the Barbican

MACBETH: Song of the Goat seek to conjure a complete theatrical experience by engulfing Shakespeare’s text into ‘the ceaseless flow of energy of the actors in performance’.
Macbeth at the Barbican
Song of the Goat Theatre’s production of Macbeth in the Pit at the Barbican isn’t really. Isn’t really a production of Macbeth. What is it then? It is hard to say. According to the Barbican blurb: “This is Shakespeare’s tragedy retold through an intricately crafted blend of text, movement and polyphonic song. Presented by an international ensemble of eight exceptional performers, the production explores the musicality and muscularity of Shakespeare’s poetry and the colours and sounds of his extraordinary language.” You will be pleased to learn that the company’s 70-minute spectacle of sound, song and swirling swordplay is a great deal less impenetrable than this review of it. Song of the Goat seek to conjure a complete theatrical experience by engulfing Shakespeare’s text into ‘the ceaseless flow of energy of the actors in performance'. The problem for Bardophiles (and I count myself as one) lies in determining the success of their endeavour: Shakespeare’s wonderful lines are prevented from working their particular magic by the sheer volume of theatrical talent on display. Movement, rhythm and Corsican polyphonic chants are interwoven with live kayagum music (a Korean stringed instrument) while an ensemble cast use wooden swords, candles and their own bodies to fashion strong stage pictures from a set of elegantly carved and curved wooden uprights. In fairness to the company, their production is billed as ‘Song of the Goat Theatre’s Macbeth’ rather than ‘Macbeth by William Shakespeare’ and the running time alone should alert any Shakefan worth his salt to the fact that it certainly won’t be all five acts (not necessarily a bad thing). Having said that, if you are unfamiliar with the plot of the Scottish play then you may struggle to make sense of what you’re seeing - but, as engaging audiences in an active process of making meanings is what the company does best, it might be an advantage not to be haunted by ghosts of Macbeths past when you go. And go you most certainly should – if only so that you can help me work out what this Macbeth is. Or isn’t. Macbeth Song of the Goat Theatre 3 - 20 November 2010 / 19:45 The Pit, Barbican Centre http://www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=11061>

David Trennery

Friday 5 November, 2010

About the author

David Trennery is a free-lance writer.