Perhaps we’ve become numb to productions of Macbeth at the Fringe. In all likelihood, this year’s festival will probably mark the same number of versions as the years since Shakespeare’s death. But when his texts are completely reclaimed by new generations of artists and theatre-makers, they continue to take on provocative and far more interesting lives of their own.
Twist Theatre’s new musical Macbeth—nurtured by The Hackney Empire—tells a slick afrovibe redux of a familiar story. The struggle for the throne is beamed into the British music industry, as Macbeth plots to overthrow Duncan of King Records and corner the R’n’B and grime market for himself. Traditional prose is mashed with original music and flawless choreography to connect the points at which the pursuit of success intersect with young, black identity in Britain today.
Andre Fyffe portrays a richly complex Macbeth, full of strength, despair, uncertainty and empathy. Yet even he is outdone by superbly intimate, touching performances by Malika Cholwe as Lady M and Dominique Florent-Lee, Shadale Grant and Kali McLoughlin as the three witches – in this production, a trio of singers. Their solo numbers are highlights in this thrillingly accomplished ensemble performance.
While the show in its entirety is far from polished—it has the tendency to fall back on clumsy conceptions of stereotypical masculinity—this is exceptionally creative, political storytelling, which comes to life with youthful energy. Indeed, this inventive exploration of racial and artistic identity in the UK today is something many other early-career companies may look towards for inspiration.