Theatre: Haunting reflection on the pursuit of power

Written By: Alexandra O Donovan
Published: July 11, 2017 Last modified: July 11, 2017


Iris Theatre. St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

It is difficult to extract much that is new from an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. However, the continuously dynamic Iris Theatre Company proves that an old cur still contains the potential for new tricks, especially when in the hands of director, Daniel Winder.

Through exceptionally clever means, Winder shatters the fourth wall to make his audience both voyeur and participant in this promenade performance: We worship Duncan’s victory at the start before becoming the army that carries Birnam Wood to Dunsinane. The action moves seamlessly from one set to the next, as we promenade towards treachery, murder, and the realisation of the tragic consequences of the pursuit of immense power.

The emotional attachment we feel can be accredited in large part, to the mesmerising performances of David Hywel Baynes as Macbeth and Mogali Masuku as his Lady. The chemistry between the pair is palpable, the degeneration of their mental state as they draw down tragedy utterly believable. The standout performance of the evening belongs to Baynes (pictured), whose insanity is near contagious at such close proximity.

From beginning to end, Macbeth’s hands are stained red with blood. In a play so concerned with prophecy and hallucination the vision of the horror to come never relaxes its fascination on the audience.

As a spectacle Macbeth is a triumph. Set designer Alice Channon and costume designer Anna Sances combine to create a visual masterpiece, transforming St Paul’s Church into an eerie, unearthly landscape, and the imagining of the weird sisters as inhuman insect-like creatures is a skin-tingling metaphor for the innate barbarism of the human condition.

Be warned; the brutality of this production is not for the faint hearted. We bear witness to multiple bloody deaths, including one of a child, while cringing at the suggestion of necrophilia. All is inhuman, all is gruesome, all is depraved; as, of course, it should be.

Iris theatre has succeeded in producing a captivating retelling of Shakespeare’s darkest and most haunting play, a bubbling cauldron of reflections upon the consequences of the pursuit of power for powers sake; a contemplation of how those that climb the highest have the furthest to fall. At one point I swear I saw Mrs May running for the exit! I prophesise another 10 years of fruitful performances lies ahead for the IRIS Theatre company.