As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams, currently running at the Burton Taylor Studio, is an adaptation of the classic Japanese text The Sarashina Diary. Written around 1060, the diary was penned by an unknown woman of noble birth, documenting her life from age 12 through her marriage, loss of her sister, and travels across the provinces to the capital. In Harriet Rowe and Laura Cull’s adaptation, the emphasis is on the fluid boundary between reality and dreams, as the protagonist interweaves her life story with the tales she read as a young woman. Through these we see her longing for a husband, and her reactions to the various losses she experiences. Cull and her creative team opted for a multimedia approach, integrating dance, lighting design by Katrin Padel, and an original score by Marco Galvani. While this allowed for some captivating moments, as a whole this production was unfortunately unconvincing, failing to capture the ethereal quality needed to believe in the simultaneity of dreamed and lived experience.


The production’s minimal aesthetic – bare stage and actors dressed entirely in black – was well chosen, allowing the actors to create temples, provinces, and forests through language without obtrusive stage sets. The willowy, dark bodies seemed to evoke the ink lines of Japanese scripts or ink wash paintings, creating an embodied textuality within the performance space. Padel’s lighting design was one of the most effective aspects of the production, creating subtle mood changes that evoked the continually changing seasons. This was largely complemented by Galvani’s score, although it was difficult to judge the score in its entirety as the cellist – half of the string duo for which the music is scored – was ill. Having the second instrument would certainly have provided a greater intimacy to the scoring, in keeping with the Lady’s anxieties about her lack of a lover and her desire for a Prince, of the kind she reads about in her stories. I assume that the silences where the script explicitly invokes sound – such as the moment where Sarashina is invited to listen to the noises of a chapel – would usually have been filled by the cello part. If intentional, the silences could, in another setting, have contributed to the decreasing division between dreams and reality as the chapel sounds would resonate only in Sarashina’s mind, inaudible to the audience. However, in context of the rest of the production, the silences at these moments seemed incongruous.


The cast worked well as an ensemble, with Chloe Cheung in particular melting seamlessly between the multiple roles that she was required to play. However, they fell a little short of the postmodern blending of bodies and media that was being aimed for. As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams is a play as much about its meta-theatrical creation as the protagonist’s journeys, creating embedded narratives that lie in a liminal conceptual space. Theoretically, the combination of media and performance techniques was perfectly placed to conjure up the fantasy world that Sarashina inhabits, and in many places this proved to be the case. Some of the strongest moments were the dance sequences, beautifully executed by Marta Valentina Arnaldi and Steven Doran, in particular the scene when the lovers in Sarashina’s tales destroy a bridge to prevent access to the province they have eloped to. However whilst talented dancers, they seemed to have some difficulty adapting to their acting roles (and vice versa, when the actors were called upon to dance), meaning that the transitions between the stories the protagonist reads and tells were not as smooth as they needed to be. Although the musicians had been placed on the stage, making the creation of the auditory imaginary visible to both actors and audience, there was little interaction between the violinist and the characters, the former instead resolutely focused on the sound box. This may well have been because the cellist was absent, and it is no doubt difficult to coordinate with a partly pre-recorded score as well as the actors live on stage, but having a visual detachment from the on-stage action erected barriers within the performance space that were unconducive to any creation of an ethereal cohesion.


As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams is a sensitive adaptation and translation of the original text, and while there are highly commendable elements in the production, the premise ultimately promised more than was delivered on this occasion. 

L. C. Broad

‘As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams’ runs until Saturday 7th March at the Burton Taylor Studio; tickets are available here.

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In the latter decades of the twentieth century, Japanese manga became increasingly popular with a Western audience. Interest in manga stretches as far back as the 1970s in many European countries, France principal amongst them, while the foundation for its American success was the growing popularity of anime a decade or so later, when television series including Dragon Ball (1986-9) and films such as Akira (1988) began to gain cult followings. (The distinction between manga and anime is analogous to that between comic and animation.) While contemporary manga culture continues to rise, however, early manga has not been afforded the same attention, either critically or commercially. Many artists that played a crucial role in the early development of the medium have been pushed aside and forgotten about, as more recent artists take centre stage.

One of these masters is Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who focused not on large-scale works but on short stories, a format now fairly uncommon amongst manga artists. Good-bye is his third collection, published in its original Japanese in 1972, but only recently translated into English. Tatsumi’s tales are decidedly dark, full of seedy characters and questionable morals. His protagonists are rarely honourable men (and they are, overwhelmingly, male); they are ageing perverts, disillusioned husbands, and grubby opportunists.

© Yoshihiro Tatsumi

© Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Many will, understandably, grimace at Tatsumi’s depictions of macho aggression and discontent, but it is through this pervasive dissatisfaction that he examines his nation’s socio-political issues. The post-World-War-II period in Japan is broadly referred to as sengo, a time in which black markets thrived, poverty was rife, and the working class were the subject of much exploitation. Japan was in many senses caught between ages, not yet the technological titan that it would become by the close of the century. The rapid growth of the sixties and seventies brought economic optimism, but also great social unrest.

Tatsumi’s works are frequently preoccupied with events and locations that sit at the forefront of Japan’s collective memory. The opening story of the collection, ‘Hell’, revolves around the long-felt aftermath of Hiroshima, and is a sceptical account of the media’s manipulation of Japan’s national grieving. A silhouetted photograph of a son lovingly massaging his elderly mother’s shoulders is embraced by mourners, becoming a cultural phenomenon and making the photojournalist-protagonist something of a hero. In typical Tatsumi fashion, though, a darker truth lurks beneath the surface, one that causes the protagonist to weigh up his moral virtues against national sentiment and his own newfound fame.

tatsumi 2

© Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Japanese architecture and landmarks are given great prominence, though their presence can rarely be interpreted positively. Sometimes they appear fleetingly without comment, acting as a cultural indicator; the Tsutenkaku Tower, for example, is used as an emblem of homelessness. Elsewhere, they become actively implicated in characters’ actions. Two pivotal scenes in the story ‘Just a Man’ take place at the Yasukuni Shrine, a site upon which Japanese nostalgic nationalism centres. In the first of the two scenes, one of the shrine’s cannons symbolises virility, an idealised recollection of the war prompting the story’s elderly protagonist to feel full of youthful vigour. In the latter scene, this feeling is replaced with a sense of helpless impotency. The cannon accordingly becomes a site not of celebration, but degradation.

Such personifications of Japan are often rendered explicitly: ‘Just a Man’ opens with the ‘ceaseless honking of car horns,’ as Tokyo is described as ‘a decrepit old man’. This pessimistic, fatalistic vein runs deep through Good-bye, and it may prove too relentless for some. Beyond the grim exterior, though, the collection is the work of a man willing his nation to renew, to acknowledge its past while endeavouring to alleviate the sociocultural anxieties of its present.

J. Wadsworth

‘Good-bye’ is translated by Yuki Oniki, and published by Drawn and Quarterly.

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I had little idea what to expect when turning up to St John the Evangelist church on a damp February evening for a concert that advertised itself “one of the most exciting performances imaginable”, incorporating music “from the worlds of classical, jazz, Latin, rock, blues and beyond”. Although passingly familiar with the oeuvre of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, I’d never before seen a contemporary gypsy jazz band live, let alone one that so ambitiously aimed to stretch the boundaries of the genre. I was therefore glad to find a large and convivial audience, many of whom were evidently aficionados who were already familiar with this group’s music – a woman selling CDs at the entrance asked if I’d seen Gypsy Fire before, and when I replied that I hadn’t, assured me that I was in for a treat.

My first impression of the performance, however, was less than entirely positive: the concert opened with a performance of Vittorio Monti’s Czardas, which while expertly played, couldn’t help but feel a little hackneyed and unoriginal, and didn’t do a great deal for my expectations of what was to follow. Furthermore, despite the concert’s title of ‘Acoustic Spectacular’, the amplification for the first couple of numbers felt a little overblown for SJE’s intimate performance space and generous acoustic, with the detail and undoubted subtlety of all four performers’ playing tending to get lost in a wash of bottom-heavy sound.

However, despite this slightly inauspicious start, things quickly began to pick up. Whatever problems there had been with the sound in the first one or two numbers appeared to have been fixed, as the band moved into a selection of original arrangements which demonstrated their talents to the full. Guitarist and founding member of the band, Stuart Carter-Smith, introduced the audience to a wide range of familiar music spanning two full centuries from baroque to bebop. While the (perhaps over-)familiarity of much of the material might have been disappointing, it turned out in the main to be a positive, as it allowed the quiet virtuosity of these musicians’ playing, and the inventiveness of many of the arrangements, to come to the fore.

The results of such ingenuity were mixed, but the quality of the performances was never in doubt and ultimately outweighed any negatives. A rendition of Handel’s ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ showcased classically-trained violinist Ben Holder’s technique and musicianship to great effect, but the arrangement was a little disappointingly straight-laced and could have done with rather more punch and irreverence to transfer successfully to the gypsy jazz idiom. A jazz medley, on the other hand – described, tongue-in-cheek, as ‘the entire history of jazz in three minutes’ – managed with admirable success and real creativity to weave together Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm and Charlie Parker’s Anthropology, together with substantial sections of original material, and showed off some tastefully exuberant solo playing, in particular from guitarist Will Barnes and bass player Paul Jefferies.


The second set, however, was where the musicians’ talents really came into the spotlight. With the band members reappearing dressed down, and engaging in laid-back yet engaging and genuinely entertaining banter between numbers, we were treated to another medley, this time of film themes, rock and pop songs, which in places ran the risk of cliché but for the most part were both arranged and performed with a great deal of panache. A simple yet effective and perfectly executed version of gypsy jazz classic Dark Eyes provided a nod to the group’s stylistic roots. The real highlight of the evening, however, had to be the final four pieces: an original composition by each of the four members of the band, featuring their contrasting musical personalities and backgrounds. A witty and clever latin-jazz number with the occasional Grappelli-esque inflection, by Paul Jefferies – a stalwart of the Oxford jazz scene – was followed by a composition by Will Barnes which daringly, and successfully, worked in elements from Barnes’ own musical background as a heavy metal guitarist. The set was rounded off by a more traditional – yet still fresh and inspired – tribute to Django Reinhardt by Stuart Carter-Smith, and a wild and exuberant up-tempo finale showcasing some truly virtuosic violin playing from Ben Holder.

Despite my initial reservations, this ultimately turned out to be a highly enjoyable concert, and a chance to see some impeccable musicianship on display from four distinctive yet wholly complementary musicians. While I personally would have preferred the balance of the programme to have been shifted a little – with a higher proportion of original compositions, and perhaps more focus on the work of the group’s gypsy jazz forebears, interspersed with just a couple of lighter-hearted arrangements of familiar classics – there was a sense of genuine, heartfelt enjoyment from both audience and performers, and the evening definitely showed that these are musicians of serious talent.

O. Hubbard

For future events in the St John’s series, please visit their website; more information about Gypsy Fire is available here.

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Alistair McDowall’s one-man play Captain Amazing was performed this week at the Burton Taylor Studio. The play, which received good reviews at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, depicts the struggles of a very ordinary man, who faces life’s problems in an extraordinary way – by pretending that he is a superhero. This seemingly unsophisticated and farcical plot masks the more complex themes of the play: those of the blurring of fiction and reality, the use of pretence as a means of dealing with trauma, and the inevitability of loss and suffering, even for those perceived as superheroes.

McDowall, who won the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2011 for his play Brilliant Adventures, takes an innovative approach to theatrical work in this hour-long monologue, in which the protagonist Mark relates his life to the audience in a series of flashback episodes. Throughout the monologue we witness his first date, the birth of his child, and the breakdown of his relationship with his partner; we watch as his life is struck by joy, humour, and tragedy. We see the mundane problems of life, the awkwardness of first dates and late night encounters, mixed with the tragedy of grief, loss, and separation. This sometimes grim, sometimes comic reality is juxtaposed with Mark’s alter-ego, the heroic Captain Amazing, whose bravado and daring deeds brought the audience to roaring laughter. It is only later in the play that we realise that Captain Amazing is a constructed persona, a fiction told to his terminally ill daughter as a bedtime story, which later becomes his method of coping with her death. McDowall shows both that the heroic are not immune to tragedy, and that it is through constructed fiction and performance that we can deal with the tragedies of every day existence.


The prospect of performing a monologue on a bare stage is no doubt daunting for professional performers, and must surely be more so for a student company. However, the performance given by Andrew Dickinson was incredible in its mixture of humour and maturity. Playing several roles in the flashback scenes, Dickinson became the awkward lover, the grieving father, and even the inquisitive little girl, with ease. The innovative form of the play and the quality of the performance were coupled with an almost empty set of a black backdrop and a chair; the only colour was provided by infantile drawings projected onto the wall as references to the different scenes. The poignancy of Emily’s illness was highlighted through these images, childish stick figures depicting her ‘superhero’ father in various stages of his life. The true irony of Captain Amazing is that, although parents can be superheroes in the eyes of their children, even superheroes are ultimately unable to save those they love the most.

Dickinson, the directing team, and the production crew deserve a lot of credit for this production of Captain Amazing. It was simple but effective, and Dickinson’s stellar performance brought out the complexity of the script in the intimate setting of the Burton-Taylor Studio. This should be remembered as an example of excellent student drama in Oxford.

S. Mitchell

For future events at the Burton Taylor Studio, please visit their website.

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The Pneûma Project is a multimedia exploration of the titular Greek word, meaning ‘wind’, ‘breath’, or ‘spirit’, influenced by the many myths and folktales in which breath plays a central role. The work is a collaboration between visual artist David Ward, musician Sylvia Hallett, and choreographer Miranda Tufnell. The performance reviewed here, given at St. John the Evangelist’s Church, also featured musician Jonah Brody and a trio of dance artists: Eeva-Maria Mutka, Tim Rubidge, and Cai Tomos.

The set employed was extremely minimal. Hung between three of the church’s pillars were a pair of translucent drapes, billowing gently, onto which David Ward’s audovisual work RINK was projected. The work began on a similarly pared-back note, with all three dancers initially absent. Instead, the two musicians wandered about the empty stage, accompanying themselves only with the breathy opening and closing of accordion bellows, and quiet, pitchless key clicks. While this opening was decidedly lacking in movement, this restraint was effective, leaving time seemingly hanging in a suspended state. Is this Genesis, the movement of wind over water? During the moments that the work approached silence, one could, appropriately, hear the gentle exhalations of fellow audience members.

David Ward 'RINK'

David Ward ‘RINK’

As the percussive activity increased, and as the accordion tone clusters swelled and gave way to occasional, lush major seventh chords, a climax seemed imminent. Instead, the music calmed once more, as a man slowly entered, a large branch balanced on his shoulder. This marked the first of a series of what might loosely be called vignettes, or movements, each of which seemed mythical or folkloric in content. Another saw the trio of dancers, a light held in each hand, following the whizzing orbit of atoms – or were these the spirits of the work’s title? These movements were, for the most part, subdued, with the exception of the work’s real climax, a whooping, hollering call and response between the musicians and the dancers, within which an approximation of a sneeze became the primary sonic building block. The close of the performance came with uncertainty, giving the impression that the works’ fifty-minute duration could have been a little more extensive.

Hallett’s score consisted of a mixture of pre-recorded electronics and live acoustic instruments, principally those related to the folk tradition: accordion, fiddle, and mouth harp. The music not only complemented the visuals, but played a large role in communicating their meaning. On a basic note, the bellows and nonverbal interjections reminded the audience of Pneûma’s etymology, and created different textural soundworlds to match the visuals onstage. One scene, simple but containing the most beautiful imagery of the work, saw Mutka, the sole female dancer, captured in a veil-like net by her male counterparts, aided by the musical evocation of a restless sea and Hallett’s uncomplicated fiddle grace notes.

Minimalistic and refined by nature, the finer details of RINK, David Ward’s visual work, were unfortunately lost due to the faint projection. Only during certain, sharper images did RINK come to the fore; in one early movement, for example, the winding of abstracted lines and shapes was reminiscent of cave paintings. Here, for perhaps the only time during the performance, the dance and video elements could be clearly interpreted as corresponding directly, as the dancers’ tentative, wordless whispering hinted at the beginnings of language.


A half-hour excerpt of Pneûma was given during October’s Breath Festival, in the Museum of Natural History’s Great Hall. On that occasion, the performers’ actions were interpreted within the framework of surrounding skeletons, with this set ‘design’ intensifying the dialogue between dancers and physical space. The core thematic elements of breath, life, and death were made all the more palpable, and audiences’ interpretations of the work were guided without seeming restricted.

Having had the opportunity to see the work in this skeletal setting, I was left wondering how effectively the piece would transfer to a sparser venue. St. John the Evangelist’s Church was, regrettably, not used to its full potential. The logistics of projection, free movement, and seating meant that the performance was confined to the plainest side of the church. The pillars acted as little more than a blank structure upon which to hang the drapes, marking out the boundaries of the stage where a more expansive, fluid approach would have been welcome. The physical limitations of the performance space meant that, even when movement reached its extremes, there was little sight of the SJE’s more ornate architectural details. Despite exhibiting a mystical potency, and containing moments of beauty, one couldn’t help but feel that Pneûma would have benefitted from being given more room – both temporally and spatially – to breathe.

J. Wadsworth

The Pneûma Project was the first of many events held as part of Dancin’ Oxford, a dance festival running until Monday 9th March. For further information, please visit www.dancinoxford.co.uk

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“When we are born, we cry that we are come to this stage of fools”, laments King Lear as he lies on the brink of insanity, driven to madness by the scheming of his daughters. One of Shakespeare’s most desolate tragedies (to the extent that until 1838 the majority of performances offered an alternative happy ending), King Lear is concerned with betrayal, vanity, authority, and justice. All societal norms are upended in this play – a king becomes a madman, the blinded are those with the greatest sight, and the fool is the wisest character on the stage. Oxford University Drama Society’s production, currently running at the Keble O’Reilly Theatre, accentuates these inversions in a post-apocalyptic industrial setting, using multimedia to confuse the boundary between sanity and lunacy.

In an attempt to capture the horrific, hallucinatory world that Lear inhabits, the production aimed to ‘focus on sensory perception and immersion’. Drawing on Lear’s line “A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears”, the staging tried to create this synaesthesiac experience with blinding lights, booming soundtrack, and use of film. By far the most successful aspect of the staging was the live recordings, filming some scenes as they were acted out on stage and projecting them on to the walls. In each instance it brought a new perspective to the on-stage drama; Edmund’s Act I monologue bore uncomfortable similarities to ransom videos posted on YouTube, subjecting Gloucester to the camera’s gaze after having his eyes gouged out put the audience in an ironically voyeuristic position, and seeing Lear’s reaction to his daughter’s death distant and magnified was an effective juxtaposition to the intimacy of the scene.

Gloucester (Owen Mears) and Edgar (James Aldred) © Oliver Robinson

Gloucester (Owen Mears) and Edgar (James Aldred) © Oliver Robinson

At moments such as these when the production wholeheartedly committed to its premise of being a 21st-century, technologically immersive Lear, it was extraordinarily successful. However, much of the production seemed like a fairly traditional staging, with multimedia interludes between scenes rather than being fully integrated. The underscoring to Gloucester’s speech at the close of Act I was superbly executed, as was the lighting in the scene when he meets his son Edgar but is unable to recognise him having lost his sight. Act III Scene 4, for example, could have benefitted from a more sensitive treatment in this vein, with more use made of sound and lighting, if not film. Throughout this scene where Lear truly beings his descent into madness, surrounded by his Fool, Kent, and Edgar disguised as Tom O’Bedlam, the staging gave little regard to the storm that is supposed to be raging across the heath. Besides the projection of a forest at the start of the play and the animal heads worn by the nameless characters, the nature imagery that proliferates in King Lear was largely downplayed in favour of a more industrial and mechanical aesthetic, so I was expecting a reworking of the heath scene in keeping with this. However, this scene largely revolved around the physicality of the actors in a pared back staging, which made it quite difficult to hear a lot of the dialogue and seemed like something of a missed opportunity.

Isobel Jesper Jones was something of a tour de force as Regan, characterising her as brutal and overtly forceful in her sexuality. Seeing her take overt pleasure in gouging out Gloucester’s eyes (played by the similarly excellent Owen Mears) gave a deliciously sadistic edge to her portrayal, balanced by her seductive tone towards Lear in her first on-stage appearance. Regan, Gloucester, and Edgar (James Aldred) gave subtlety and nuance to their characters, an attribute unfortunately missing from Lear (James Hyde) and Goneril (Georgia Figgis). These are some of Shakespeare’s most complex characters, but Hyde’s Lear seemed mad from the outset, leaving him nowhere to go in terms of character development. Goneril seemed something of a caricature, with a lack of emotional range detracting from the malicious and manipulative nature of her actions. Oliver Skan and Will Stevens as Albany and Cornwall provided solid support to their female counterparts, with Skan coming into his own in his scenes with Aldred towards the close of the play.

Regan (Isobel Jesper Jones) and Gloucester (Owen Mears) © Oliver Robinson

Regan (Isobel Jesper Jones) and Gloucester (Owen Mears) © Oliver Robinson

This is, for the most part, an imaginative and innovative staging of King Lear. The multimedia elements, where they were allowed to merge with the on-stage action, were superb throughout, so full credit must go to James Percival, Ed Horner, and Hendrik Ehlers as sound producer, lighting designer, and video designer respectively. I hope future performances continue to explore the possibilities that this production raises, going even further towards immersive and technologically integrated drama. Shakespeare’s plays are a continual resource for innovation and renewal, and this production offers glimpses of what a 21st century Lear could be capable of.

L. C. Broad

‘King Lear’ runs at the Keble O’Reilly Theatre until the 28th February; tickets can be booked here.

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What is the real essence of Macbeth, and how is this conveyed as effectively as possible in a short and powerful contemporary play? Theatre company Filter has thoroughly explored this question for their rendition of Shakespeare’s tragedy, creating a thoroughly modern version that is as aware of Shakespeare’s original work as of the reception and interpretation his work has received through the ages.

In Filter’s adaptation, the innovative use of music and sound effects, composed by Tom Haines, is as important as Shakespeare’s famous lines. The entire play is staged by six actors and a musician. All actors are musicians too, operating an eclectic mix of electronic and manual instruments. This impressively large setup of instruments is the only scenery used in the play, which is visually carried entirely by the actors, props, and lighting. Since the musical instruments occupy the centre of the stage, the actors at times swerve out into the audience or stand in front of the stage for entire scenes or dialogues.


The audience is warned when entering the theatre: there will be loud noises, the show is recommended for an audience aged 14+. This warning is more disconcerting than is necessary, as it suggests the audience will be confronted with an obnoxious cacophony, which this show is not. The music and sound effects are very well timed and highly effective, making it possible to convey the grim atmosphere of Macbeth in fewer words. This leads to a fast-paced, thrilling performance, in which the lack of an intermission in the 85-minute production goes entirely unnoticed. There are no scene cuts: the music flows from one scene into another, creating coherence rather than transitions.

Ferdy Roberts is an excellent Macbeth, who manages to evoke sympathy from his audience even as we see him head towards inevitable self-inflicted destruction. He brings his lines with a contemporary diction and attitude without making this clash with Shakespeare’s language, an admirable feat that is not always achieved in contemporary updates of Shakespeare. Poppy Miller complements Roberts well as an intriguing Lady Macbeth. Her mental disturbance is clear from the moment she first speaks, her inner torment made audible and visible, whereas that of Macbeth is expressed in a much more suppressed manner. As the audience sympathises with Macbeth but is appalled by Lady Macbeth’s insane hypocrisy, it makes one wonder why these two got married in the first place.


The other actors all play multiple parts, yet there are hardly any physical changes that acknowledge these character transitions. Paul Woodson, who plays both Duncan and Malcolm, wears a white shirt as Duncan and a blue one as Malcolm. Victoria Moseley, on the other hand, undergoes no dress changes at all as she plays both Banquo and the doctor. This leads to some confusing moments as some actors do not create obvious differences in mannerisms between two characters, making them only recognizable through vocatives or to people who know the original play well – Banquo and the doctor have exactly the same voice and attitude.

It is not only the setting of the play that is updated, with electronic music and actors wearing jeans. The content has been added to as well, creating a hybrid of mostly Shakespeare’s lines and a surprising addition. The other textual source used for the play is none other than a critical reading guide to Shakespeare, from which Macbeth is made to read after he has committed the murder. It is only when he reads about his deeds and their consequences in the third person that he truly realizes what he has done. Though one may wonder why this source is being used – it at first comes across as if the actors feel the need to explain what has just happened in plainer English, something which is definitely not necessary – it also emphasises the wider cultural impact of Macbeth, and the context through which most people will have first encountered the play.


The ending of the play is original, but not entirely convincing. Macbeth’s death is presented as a sound effect without any accompanying visuals. After this moment Roberts is still standing on stage, a confusing arrangement. Woodson, as Malcolm, concludes the play with Shakespeare’s lines in the most casual way possible, creating a light-hearted ending. It is a surprising choice for a play that has just rushed by at such an immense pace.

K. Dihal

‘Macbeth’ runs at the Oxford Playhouse until Saturday 28th February; for more information please visit the Playhouse website.

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