Macbeth – Who Is That Bloodied Man?

THEATRE
Macbeth: Whio Is That Bloodied Man?
3 stars ***
Old College Quad (Venue 192)

NOTHING MUCH HAS CHANGED, in the aesthetic style of the fabulous Polish group Biuro Podrozy, since they first astonished  Edinburgh audiences a decade ago with their Carmen Funebre, inspired by their horror at the war in former Yugoslavia.   It’s stil the same mind-blowing combination of fire, music, and huge, sinister stilt-walkers looming from the darkness; and this year they bring it to bear on a brief 75-minute version of Macbeth, played out in the superb setting of Old College Quad, with its grand, looming walls of dark stone.

As versions of Macbeth go, this one often seems more confused than illuminating.  There’s a Banquo but no Macduff, a coronation scene but no banquet; and Macbeth finally dies not in battle – although there is a memorable evocation of a battle engine rattling with the skulls of his slain enemies – but by locking himself up in his fortress and setting it on fire, after discovering Lady Macbeth hanged by her own hand.  The text is largely reduced to the odd scrap of booming voiceover, and the First World War-style battlefield motorbikes used to transport the cast around splutter and skid on the deep gravel surface.

In the end, though, the show has two memorable assets.  There’s a fabulous score, sung live by a soprano perched high on a windy ladder; and there is that visual imagery, mad, wild and beautiful.   The image of eight great stilt-walkers in single file suddenly emerging onto the stage, touched by an eerie blue light, and representing all the generations of kings descended from Banquo, is almost worth the ticket price in itself; and helps to confirm Teatr Biuro Podrozy’s status as one of those inimitable companies whose work, once seen, is never to be forgotten.

Joyce McMillan
Until 27 August
p. 218

ENDS ENDS

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