Shakespeare returned to the Manoel Theatre yesterday after 10 years with Unifaun Theatre Productions’ staging of Macbeth.

The classic tragedy is given a unique take by UK-based theatre director Clive Judd, who adapts it for a modern audience. Speaking about the production, he refers to colleague Phylida Lloyd and her staging of Shakespeare’s Trilogy (Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest) for the Donmar Warehouse.

“She reminds us that by entirely unshackling these plays from their contexts, they can be revived in the best possible sense. If you do that with Macbeth and you avoid the much-explored option of setting the play within a semi-recognisable political/military regime or framework, what remains are intimate, human relationships. The play’s psychological terrain is much more fascinating than the dystopian concept on which to offer parallels to our present situation or prophesies of our future,” he says.

In this version, Macbeth finds himself subconsciously adopting Shakespeare’s story. It is within this narrative that he finally gets to become king and thus experiences a taste of power and control.

“When I started to consider why someone would choose Macbeth as a parallel narrative to their own life, it led me to far more domestic, intimate revelations about Shakespeare’s play, such as the nature of loss, inferiority complex, mental health, late capitalism and depression − all notions that I’ve circled around in other projects in one form or the other,” he notes.

“More than a play about vaulting ambition, it became a study of our search for meaning, purpose and sense of self, as well as an examination of trauma, loss and the actions it begets.”

Situations we all recognise

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth together attempt to conceive something new from the grief-stricken wreckage of unimaginable loss, but this time their ‘child’ is delivered in the form of Shakespeare’s murderous plot. Thus, the characters in this version become not only those of the author, but also those responsible for the everyday traumas one might experience in real life. 

“Situations we all recognise,” Judd remarks. “The employer whose lifestyle one covets, the colleague who seems to know you better than you know yourself or the illicit relationship that eats one away from the inside. Seen as a metaphysical nightmare marked by a loosening sense of reason and objectivity, Macbeth moves away from the political in the sense of nation and becomes political on the scale of the domestic − applicable to and associated with the everyday human being, and less those of literal kings and queens. 

“We are examining the effects of modern politics upon ordinary human beings and conjuring the ghosts of real existence manipulated by the traumatised mind. Where the protagonist decides what part each character plays and whether they live or die,” the director continues.

The show stars Mikhail Basmadjian in the title role, Chris Dingli as Macduff, Jes Camilleri as Duncan and Erica Muscat in the role of Lady Macbeth. The other cast members include Jonathan Dunn, Julia Camilleri, Antonella Mifsud, Antonella Axisa, Naomi Knight, Brendon Thearle and Alex Weeninck. 

Designed by Italian designer Romualdo Moretti, with sound design from award-winning UK artist Giles Thomas and lighting from acclaimed designer Chris Gatt.

Macbeth, a co-production between the Manoel Theatre and Unifaun Theatre Productions, is partially funded by the Malta Arts Council through the MAF Project Fund. It is being staged today, tomorrow and on Monday at 8pm. For tickets and more information, visit teatrumanoel.com.mt or call the box office on 2124 6389.

The Sisters played by Naomi Knight, Julia Camilleri, Sasha Calleja.The Sisters played by Naomi Knight, Julia Camilleri, Sasha Calleja.

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