Many adaptations of Macbeth proliferate the Fringe, but few will be as bold and reinventive as this one man show from Choin Theatre Company. Here the tragedy of Macbeth is retold by an actor who becomes dangerously obsessed with his character, the pair of them fuelled by volatile ambition. Macbeth makes some fascinating creative choices, powered on by a staggering lead performance and streaks of ingenuity.
The show puts the character and significance of Macbeth on a pedestal, above the rest of the story. The actor flips between the play and reality, embodying several characters along the way. The actor’s descent into chaos and obsession is startlingly captured by erratic movement and maniacal laughter, both of which feel increasingly like the by-product of despair. They start the play by flapping their arms in an attempt to fly, a flailing effort at achieving an ambition that characterises the rest of the play. Macbeth is of course a story known across the world, but the actor’s torment at following it through or selfishly seizing control of the character adds a new suspense that has not really been seen before.
The staging consists of four blue blocks arranged in a square, and not much more. It is through a versatile, powerful performance that the actor’s dilemma finds substance. The dramatic soundtrack and lighting exaggerates the dive into the messy question of what to do. It is often fixating, the actor’s degeneration taking place amidst what can feel like a thunder and lightning storm. The simplest, yet most inspired move, is the finger puppet. Somehow, a genuine relationship is crafted between the actor and the puppet, to the point where you mourn its death. Over and over again, Macbeth stuns you with the risks it takes and the rewards that it reaps.
Macbeth is a testimony to how Shakespeare resonates across the world, but also how open he is to reinvention. Told with style, power and in a refreshingly new way, director Park Cheong-euy has come close to a masterstroke. Macbeth is front and centre in a way you couldn’t make up as his fate is intertwined with the actor performing him, a powerful statement on the extent to which you should go to get what you want in life.