The Scottish Play, as it’s known in theatrical circles (bad luck to mention Shakespeare’s tragedy by name) is a Belfast Festival favourite.
Recent years have seen Replay Theatre Company perform it at Crumlin Road jail, and Polish company Teatr Biuro tell it on motorbikes and stilts in a stunning show at Clarendon Dock.
This year, it’s the turn of the Lyric Theatre to tell the story of twisted ambition, through the interpretation of director Lynne Parker. And this time, the play gets a Northern Irish twist.
Parker’s production of (whisper it) Macbeth will have many resonances with this place, with its desolate countryside and desperate characters. She believes it to be a very Northern Irish drama, filled with politics, plotting and people swayed by superstition.
And she has assembled a sterling local cast for her adaptation, which opens at the Lyric Theatre this evening. Stuart Graham takes the role of the man who would be king, with Andrea Irvine as the ruthless Lady Macbeth. The witches, who have spurned the pointy hats and broomsticks more usually associated with Halloween for attire more suitable to the wet, grey streets of Belfast, are played by Carol Moore, Eleanor Methven and Claire Rafferty.
It’s the first time Shakespeare has been performed in the new Lyric Theatre, and the first time
Parker has directed the Bard’s tragedy, and she’ll be putting her own stamp on the production. The cast will speak in the Ulster idiom — our speech patterns lend themselves to the Shakespeare’s words, says Parker.
It’s a story packed with the supernatural, a fine choice for the season of witches and ghouls. The themes are familiar to Northern Ireland, too: murderous ambition, old-fashioned superstition, and the banality of evil. It’s a place where fair is foul and foul is fair; where misplaced beliefs drive people to desperate deeds.
Parker hopes to inject some dark comedy into this tragic tale — but it remains, at heart, an exploration of the black side of human desire. Blood will have blood. So screw your courage to the sticking place, for something wicked this way comes...
Macbeth, Lyric Theatre, until November 24