This week a friend and I decided to make the most of the final days of summer and enjoy a bit of outdoor theatre, before the autumn nights begin to draw in.
We headed down to mima, or the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, who were hosting a performance of Macbeth in their garden space.
The play was performed by Heartbreak Productions whose interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic was set in a World War One rehabilitation centre, with the wounded soldiers as the cast, which added a commemorative twist to the story.
The set was basic, but made great use of the space in the garden, with a WW1 style tent pitched just behind the stage and the audience huddled on folding chairs, picnics close at hand. Both the props and the costumes had a WWI theme, but were used effectively to tell the story of the murderous Macbeth and his wife.
The four cast members performed with great energy, switching between characters and accents in a flash.
By the time the interval was over, it was growing dark. The footlights only made the play more atmospheric, sometimes casting an eerie light over the faces of the performers. The sound too was effective; even the background noise from the nearby town centre added to the mood, in particular the clock tower striking 9pm during the scene where Macduff discovers that his family have been murdered.
I’ve always loved Shakespeare, but it’s been a long time since I went to see one of his plays performed. It’s fascinating to see the ways in which modern theatre companies and directors interpret them, or give them a contemporary twist. It’s almost like watching a different tale unfold each time.
We were both surprised at how well we remembered many of the lines from the play, although it’s been over a decade since we studied Macbeth for our exams at school. But watching the play brought the details of the story flooding back, and the WWI setting only emphasised the message that war is a brutal business.
There are still a few remaining performances of this production around the UK, which run until early September.