30 July 2022

Review: Macbeth, presented by the Red Rose Chain

By Rachel Sloane

Macbeth by William Shakespeare………at Sutton Hoo (National Trust).

How do you turn to one of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedies and turn it into a rollicking comedy? You hand it over to the Red Rose Chain and their annual Theatre in the Forest.

In their new home, at the National Trust site at Sutton Hoo, the Red Rose Chain offers their take on the story of Macbeth, the ‘Scottish hero’ who ‘meets three witches who puts some dark and dangerous ideas in his head that one day he would be king.’ (Those words are taken from ‘Macbeth in a Nutshell’, a helpful nine page cartoon in the excellent programme). 

Proudly saying that this is ‘sustainable theatre’ Red Rose Chain have used their old minibus as the castle, and created a hotch-potch of reworked eccentric costumes. The cast greeted us on arrival with Red Rose’s usual silliness and ad-libbing, before opening the play singing about this being  ‘a story told by silly people’.

The cast of eleven (who also play instruments, dance, sing, encourage audience participation, and ad-lib) included six young actors who are studying or are about to study drama. What was impressive is they weren’t there to just make up the numbers but were fully involved and trusted to carry crucial roles in the play. We commented as we left that you couldn’t tell who a professional actor was, and who wasn’t! 

That is not to decry the role of the more experienced hands. The breath-taking fight scenes, the emotion of the bereaved MacDuff (played by Matt Penson), the anguish of Macbeth, (Jack Heydon) and his guilt over the ambition that had led him to kill, the scheming Lady Macbeth (Olu Adaeze), and how Ailis Duff switched convincingly between three characters, Banquo, Lady Macduff and Doctor.  But let me admit it. The one I could have watched all night, as he was so funny, was Darren Latham, (playing Duncan and the Porter), who is so good at playing to the crowd. 

Red Rose Chain know their audience. This was a fun night out for all ages, for those who don’t consider themselves Shakespearians, but also for those who do know his work well as, amongst all the silliness, were the characters and famous speeches they would be familiar with. 

The highlights? The amazing pace of the action, the energy of the actors, the humour, the music, the very realistic and scary fight scenes and, of course, the three witches, amazing giant puppets, each controlled by three of the actors. 

Definitely a  night to remember. 

It is on until 20th August and tickets are selling fast.  https://redrosechain.com/macbeth/

I can’t really count Macbeth as part of my Theatre Challenge this year… for that I need to go to a performance at the home of Red Rose Chain… the Avenue Theatre in Ipswich. Perhaps to The Gold Chainers ‘The Nightingale in Octobe’r or to ‘The Wind in the Willows’ at Christmas? Watch this space! 

NB Rachel’s Theatre Challenge is to visit every theatre in Suffolk in 2022.