ETT Macbeth at Northern Stage, Leo Wan _ Guy Rhys – The Other Richard

As soon as Lady Macbeth picks up her phone to receive a video-message from her elated and victorious husband, babbling about three fortune-telling witches he’s just met, you just know you’re in for a – shall we say ‘contemporary’ – re-telling of The Scottish Play.

ETT Director Richard Twyman, like Macbeth himself, really does take no prisoners in his attempts to realise his vision: karaoke, bagpipes, audience participation, video-screens, Louis Armstrong and droning sound-effects are all bravely employed.

Macbeth at Northern Stage, Mike Noble – The Other Richard

‘this production achieved its aim to provoke and entertain’

Such daring direction of a Shakespeare play is always going to be controversial: the whispering, packet-rustling large group of sixth-formers sitting behind me at Oxford Playhouse were soon silently agog; the elderly couple next to me voted with their feet at the interval.

Macbeth at Northern Stage, Full Company – The Other Richard

And when it worked, it worked brilliantly – such as Macbeth and his wife (Laura Elsworthy) adjourning to the kitchen to discuss their evil intent on King Duncan, the house CCTV recording and projecting their nervous discussion on to the large video-screens, all the while glinting kitchen-knives are ominously visible behind them.

‘as Macbeth in turn kills and is killed, the whole audience gasps and groans in surprise and revulsion’

However, occasionally the production felt outlandish, especially when king Malcom (played by Hayley Konadu) sang Yes Sir, I can Boogie! Mike Noble in the lead role was accomplished enough however to accommodate his director’s ambitious ideas.

Macbeth at Northern Stage, Jasmine Elcock – The Other Richard

At the play’s end, as Macbeth in turn kills and is killed, the whole audience gasps and groans in surprise and revulsion. And in doing so, it seemed this production had achieved its aim to provoke and entertain. While not for the traditionalists, go and see it with an open mind, but go nonetheless.

Edward Bliss

Macbeth runs at Oxford Playhouse until Saturday March 16. Book here