Though it’s rare to see a gender-inverted production of Macbeth, in line with renaissance practice Lady Macbeth would originally have been played by a man. This fact sparked the imagination of Kally Lloyd-Jones, artistic director of Company Chordelia, who decided to cast three men in the title role of her exploration of one of Shakespeare’s most damned women. The piece delves into the character’s wider story, reaching beyond the text to expand on the hints we are given about the Macbeths’ absent child, and Lady Macbeth’s madness.
The three all begin by donning makeup, a metamorphosis that invites our collusion in the make believe. A choreography rich in straight lines and hand symbols gives a hint to communication that goes beyond the verbal. Indeed this is also a collaboration with Solar Bear—a company who produce work which engages with D/deaf communication—and some of the movement has its origins in British Sign Language. By subverting the idea that there is one way in which to speak, Lloyd-Jones suggests a misunderstood side to the character.
There are other symbols of her turmoil, some of them brutal. We may know that the three bundled blankets the men cradle are not babies, but the shock of seeing rocks fall out is a stab of grief and guilt – a self-flagellating reminder of her murderous actions, or the cold pain of losing a baby? Motifs of blood, washing and white cloth recur and while the imagery isn’t always hooked into a linear story, the piece floats an atmosphere of despair.