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Review: No toil or trouble here – Queen’s Theatre’s Macbeth lives a charmed life

PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:09 12 February 2020

Paul Tinto in Macbeth. Picture: Mark Sepple

Paul Tinto in Macbeth. Picture: Mark Sepple

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Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s latest production of Macbeth ends on such a striking and well-executed image – pun intended – that it feels too much of a spoiler for me to write anything more about it here.

Paul Tinto and Ewan Somers in Macbeth. Picture: Mark SepplePaul Tinto and Ewan Somers in Macbeth. Picture: Mark Sepple

Before we reach that breathtaking conclusion, audiences are taken on an intensely tragic journey as the bold and loyal Macbeth, returning from masterminding a huge victory for his King Duncan, runs into a coven of witches and has his destiny - to be king himself, hereafter - spelled out before him.

Of course, witches being witches, they leave out all the murder and heartbreak that also lies ahead for our eponymous "hero", and the misery the crown will bring with it.

This particular rendition of the Bard's Scottish play sees director Douglas Rintoul make incredibly clever use of silhouettes to create a clear sense of pitched battles and bloody warfare in a unique and unsettling way.

Paul Tinto  in Macbeth. Picture: Mark SepplePaul Tinto in Macbeth. Picture: Mark Sepple

The minimalist staging brings a heightened frisson of intensity to every scene, pulling all eyes towards the actors as they strut and fret their hour upon the stage.

And strut they do, with aplomb.

The entire company boasts not a single weak link, but special praise must go to the nuanced and engaging performances of Paul Tinto and Phoebe Sparrow as Macbeth and his ambitious Lady.

Adam Karim, Phoebe Sparrow and Paul Tinto in Macbeth. Picture: Mark SeppleAdam Karim, Phoebe Sparrow and Paul Tinto in Macbeth. Picture: Mark Sepple

Special mention must go to two stand-out moments: a spine-tingling cackle that Tinto lets out towards the play's conclusion as his inevitable fate draws near, and a devastatingly piercing scream from Sparrow just before that is genuinely hard to sit through and leaves the audience squirming.

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This production, with its ethereal smoke and mystical lighting, might also serve as a brilliant jumping off point for Shakespeare, even to those with no previous interest in his stellar body of work.

Danielle Kassarate and David Nellist in Macbeth. Picture: Mark SeppleDanielle Kassarate and David Nellist in Macbeth. Picture: Mark Sepple

Who doesn't love a good sword fight? The choreography used throughout is gritty and real, leaving the plastic sheeting that serves as a backdrop covered in ominous bloodstains.

And comedy? We've got that too - even knock knock jokes.

As for the words themselves? Well, Macbeth is the origin point for a surprising number of well-known sayings we all use today.

Phoebe Sparrow in Macbeth. Picture: Mark SepplePhoebe Sparrow in Macbeth. Picture: Mark Sepple

"Fell swoop", "be all and end all", "come what may", "a sorry sight" and "a charmed life" can all be found here for the first time - incredible when you stop to think that this play was almost certainly written 414 years ago in 1606.

Put simply, this production is excellent.

If you like Shakespeare, you'll love it.

Danielle Kassarate, Paul Tinto, Colette McNulty and Connie Walker in Macbeth. Picture: Mark SeppleDanielle Kassarate, Paul Tinto, Colette McNulty and Connie Walker in Macbeth. Picture: Mark Sepple

If you don't like Shakespeare, there's a high chance you'll have changed your mind by the time the curtain falls.

Macbeth is on at Queen's Theatre in Billet Lane, Hornchurch until February 29. Tickets available at queens-theatre.co.uk or on 01708 443333.


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