“Out, damned spot! out, I say…What! will these hands ne’er be clean?” Lady Macbeth
After some minutes spent traipsing through a dark and dank Clapham Common for Omnibus’ promenade version of Macbeth, we were thinking similar thoughts about our boots.
This smart and deeply atmospheric production takes its audience around the famed South London cruising spot, stopping off at a memorial and in the middle of a pool to evoke the early battlefield scenes before entering the large and largely empty Omnibus venue.
Macbeth may be the venerable Voldemort of the Shakespearean canon (superstitious thesps avoid saying the title when in the theatre) but, even in this abridged version, fans of “the Scottish play” can revel in all the greatest hits from the portentous “is this a dagger I see before me?” to the harrowingly nihilistic “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”. The acting is spot-on throughout: the pivotal scene when Macbeth imagines his bosom buddy Banquo returned from the dead chills to the marrow and the blacker plot elements are emotive and visceral affairs.
It is a shame that a creative industry like theatre on the whole evinces too little creative thought when it comes to staging and engaging the audience. Most productions are still carried out from behind a thick fourth wall while entrepreneurial sorts like Omnibus aresneered at by the old guard and accused of jumping on the immersive bandwagon.
To hell with them. If a padded seat and a reserved drink at the interval are a top priority, this isn’t the play for you. This Macbeth takes us out of the comfort zone and plunges us into the dark places of not just the Common but the human soul. Director Gemma Kerr does not shy away from gruesome portayals of Macbeth’s fouler deeds, not least child murder and the killing of the eponymous usurper’s best friend and king.
The cast itself are a small but quality bunch with some roles cut or doubled. As Macbeth, Gregory Finnegan has something of the Fassbender intensity about him while the inspired Jennifer Jackson is a perfect foil as his co-conspirator and lady wife. Samuel Collings’ Banquo may not make it to the last reel but his performance lingers in the memory beyond the battlefield finale. Those looking to enjoy this wonderfully dark production should wrap up warm and screw that courage to the sticking-place.
Omnibus’ Macbeth continues until 29 November. Tickets are £15 (£12 concessions) with the exception of the gala night 21 November (£30). More information can be found on the official website.