Bristol Theatre News

Macbeth Tobacco Factory Theatres Review

By William Shakespeare
Tobacco Factory Theatres
Directed by Adele Thomas


Sparkling direction and a wonderful cast makes Macbeth at Tobacco Factory Theatres one of the must-see productions of 2018. There’s a brutal realism to the gritty supernatural drama, with no punches pulled at some of the play’s more violent moments.

We all know what happens in the story, yet at key points, the tension continues to build to unbearable levels.

Banquo’s ghost at the feast was stressful and the showdown with Macduff at the end kept people on the edge of their seats until the final slaying.

Aaron Anthony gives us a sympathetic and likeable Banquo as well as a chilling spectre. He has a warm, natural relationship with the other characters making his murder all the more despicable.


Katy Stephens Lady Macbeth Tobacco Factory Theatre


Katy Stephen’s Lady Macbeth was a joy – beautifully calculating and manipulative until her final death. Her breakdown scene was an uncomfortable watch.

Jonathan McGuinness pulls out the weaknesses and flaws of Macbeth’s character providing a good contrast to his wife. What was interesting about this interpretation was how the opening scene brings in the possibility of Macbeth having PTSD as a result of battlefield horrors. Macbeth at times displays humanity yet Lady Macbeth’s influence is so strong it further suggests that the balance of power is at times emotionally abusive.


Macbeth Tobacco Factory Theatre


Anisha Fields’ set with Max Pappenheim’s sound and Matthew Graham’s lighting left us with a disconcerting feeling before it even started. The cold creeping in from outside and the uneven flooring with the mysterious lit box created a growing sense of unease – a feeling mirrored in the play’s closing moments.

Good triumphs over evil in the end, was a GCSE practice question I remember answering in the early 90s. Not in this production it doesn’t. The mysterious witches carry a strange box, their faces masked, their evil manipulation carries on even after Macbeth’s downfall.  Part of the witches script is translated into Gaelic giving them an off kilter other worldly feel from the start.

Shakespeare in the intimate round of the Tobacco Factory’s studio theatre brings us close to the action. We are complicit in the treachery that unfolds around us but can only watch the horror develop.

Maggie Bain as Lady Macduff, the tough no nonsense Scottish wife, with Benjamin Pleat as her son created a  particularly galling scene. Brutal and unyielding.

Laura Waldren as Gentlewoman is definitely an actor to watch. As servant to Lady Macbeth, she provides a reaction to the horrors unfolding. That innocence appears to blur at times as she becomes somewhat of an accomplice to the deceit. It’s a much more interesting and rounded character than the script originally gives us. It also shows that everyone, every character in the play has their doubts about the innocence of Macbeth at some point, yet all fail on some level to intervene. If nothing else in the play works for you, then at least be thankful for how it highlights the importance of modern day forensics which would have nipped the drama in the bud before a single dagger figuratively floated.

There is a lot of strobe lighting used throughout, which is an important consideration for people with sensitivities. The floor is also uneven upon entry to the auditorium. Several litres of blood are used and graphic murder does happen on stage. The official age recommendation for the play is 12 years upwards, though children with a sensitive nature may struggle.

Macbeth is at Tobacco Factory Theatres until 07 April 2018. Captivating, dramatic and tragic, perfectly performed and expertly directed, this will be one of the best things to see in Bristol this year.


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