On the chilly night of the 1st of September, I journeyed to see the RAW Shakespeare Project’s production of Macbeth. It was everything you want in a play; passionate, intense, and transporting. The basic materials and the minimalist set made the actors the prime focus of the play. With the small room, close-set seats and nothing between the audience and the performers, it felt like you were right there in 9th century Scotland.
Despite the word ‘raw’ in the name, I didn’t expect the small and intimate set. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the effects that could be produced by good acting, a few set pieces and a couple of lights. The set consisted of a few benches and a centrepiece that looked like a fountain on one side and a garden wall on the other. The show was directed around this minimalist set, creating an atmosphere of no distractions between the audience and the actors.
The acting in the show was superb. The actors had an incredible aptitude for conveying the darkness and the emotional turmoil of the tragic play. There were a few points where the characters broke down and cried whilst addressing the audience: moments such as when Macduff’s wife finds out she is going to die, when Macduff finds out his wife has been murdered by Macbeth, and Macbeth’s slow descent into madness. The eye contact and the mascara running down bare cheeks charged the performance in a breathtaking way. The acting was so exquisite that these bare, emotional parts of the performance had the hairs standing up on the backs of my arms.
One fact that I was particularly interested by was that, besides Macbeth himself, the cast was entirely women. This cast a layer of feminism and female empowerment over the play. This appealed to me, especially in these times where female empowerment is such a political and social forefront of our society. The original lines were changed slightly so that the women were still female characters. For example, Macduff is a strong female warrior with a beautiful wife and the previously ‘King Duncan’ character was matriarch Queen Duncan. In this sense, the show had been adapted to reflect the modern, open-mindedness of our age, which was very uplifting both to myself, and to members of the LGBTQA+ identification.
The 17th century words of Shakespeare remained unchanged from the mouths of 21st century actors. Although a bit hard to follow because of Shakespeare’s overtly floral language and the dialect of Old English, the acting brought a slice of that time into that small room.
In conclusion, this was a great show that was intimate, emotional and capture the spirit of Shakespeare’s Macbeth perfectly. It was raw. It was Shakespeare. Why would you go and see anything else?
Words by Sarah Ingham.
Photo from The Raw Shakespeare Project website.