Following the ascension of Macbeth to the throne of Scotland a cover of Frank Sinatra’s L.O.V.E accompanies the monarchs dance and far from being a moment of subversive hilarity or imbuing the moment with a deeper disturbance seemed frankly, out of place. Elsewhere the production is riddled with structural inconsistencies through ill-thought through gender swaps. Banquo and Fleance become woman and girl, causing one to question whether Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness isn’t rather postponed; given it is originally the brutality and wasteful murder of Macduff’s wife and children that provides the ultimate catalyst for her demise. Hart works around the question of witches by animating an army of military undead as a cohesive voice of supernatural prophecy, which given the over-reliance on demonic imagery seems rather a missed opportunity for occult visuals.
Despite the clear effort exerted by the production team to work the concept of the Macbeth's owning a hotel in hell, as one long neon sign flickers out the ‘O’ and ‘T’ periodically to spell ‘HEL’ atop three hotel room doors each baring the number 6, the concept seems rather haphazardly hustled together. Given that the play’s themes are already alarmingly obvious the extension of this into the slightly campy set design in the Watermill’s intimate, murky interior does very little to transport us to Scotland’s harrowing heaths and the Macbeths fortress. Likewise Emma McDonald and Billy Postlethwaite as our cunning bloodthirsty couple shimmer with overly zealous determination to really sell it to us without the crucial connection between them that makes the exploit so electrifying. Victoria Blunt’s Malcom is one of few standouts in an overwhelmingly young cast, bristling with regal recalcitrance and poignant pragmatism and despite the productions desperate need for dramaturgical re-evaluation, the sight of a gender equal cast in regional theatre is genuinely heartening.