I’m usually a musical theatre kinda guy, so those are typically the shows I gravitate towards. I was offered the opportunity to see the South African production of Macbeth and didn’t expect much, but I’m glad that I got to see this Shakespearian classic on stage because I learned that a play from over 400 years ago can still be relevant today.

The Story (no spoilers)

William Shakespeare’s shortest, darkest and most thrilling tragedy, Macbeth, takes place in Scotland, which is at the time, torn by rebellion. As the narrative unfolds, we see Macbeth and his wife’s lives unravel because of their insatiable greed as they pursue the throne.

The Production

The original play is said to have first been performed on stage in 1606, according to most scholars – over 400 years ago. This particular production comes to Johannesburg hot on the heels of its European debut at the world’s largest and most prestigious International Shakespeare Festival in Craiova, Romania.

It was impressive seeing the actors bring to life what is a very old story with just the right amount of modern technology. Despite lighting, smoke effects and music being used to convey the story, it was to my mind quite similar to how the play was seen by audiences centuries ago, which I really enjoyed. The narrative depended more on the words and performances, which was a refreshing change of pace.

Stephen Jubber in Macbeth
Stephen Jubber as Macduff

Owing to the fact that the play is 4 centuries old, the dialogue was complex compared to modern language. Being able to memorise diction from another era is phenomenal and all cast members were amazing in their delivery of the lines.

The cast consists of 6 male actors who play various characters. All actors were believable in each role they played, however, Tristan de Beer really impressed me with his portrayal of Lady Macbeth. Initially, I’ll admit that when I saw a man enter the stage as Lady Macbeth, I was extremely apprehensive. I’d never seen the play but only read it in high school so, of course, I had a particular image of how the iconic Lady Macbeth should look. However, after the first scene, I was sold. His performance was flawless and completely did the character justice. Something else I appreciated was that they kept the person who portrayed Lady Macbeth as a man as was done in those times. It was an interesting dynamic seeing a male actor play a female role, but not actually uncommon in theatre productions. It’s amazing how your imagination takes the lead in live theatre, more than any other medium.

Tristan de Beer as Lady Macbeth and Marcel Meyer as Macbeth

Who Should Watch It?

The play is the darkest of William Shakespeare’s plays with themes of greed, murder, witchcraft and betrayal. Because it is an older play, I would advise that younger children sit this one out as the story could be hard to follow. Macbeth is currently being studied by Grade 12 English Additional Language as well as Grade 11 English Home Language learners so seeing the book come to life on stage would be beneficial to them. Beyond younger audiences, this production is a classic and is, therefore, fit for all adults who appreciate good story-telling.

How to Book

The play is on only at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino in Johannesburg. The production is running until the 9th of September 2018 so be sure to book your tickets through Computicket.