They said it would be immersive. It was immersive.
Gingerly balancing over the dirt floor, entering the WWI bunker that will be my home for the next hour, I felt like I was stepping back in time, into a war zone. They even managed to replicate the dank smell synonymous with any wartime museum I've ever visited. This, coupled with the smoke filling the room, guaranteed I was transported into a different world.
Jethro Compton's adaptation of the Scottish Play elevates the tension of Macbeth almost to the point of suffocation. The fact you are sitting mere metres away from the performers forces your attention. As an audience member you have nowhere to hide: you're definitely not going to check your phone, or find yourself staring off into the distance to think about what's for dinner tomorrow night.
This proximity heightens the experience substantially. You might watch a traditional rendition of Macbeth and know the character feels guilty but, in this, the feeling is practically thrust upon you, as is his steady decline into paranoia and madness.
Sam Donnelly and Bebe Sanders, as King and Lady Macbeth, are exceptional. Often I find that actors get lost in the verbose poetry that is Shakespeare, and recite rather than perform. This was not the case here – Donnelly and Sanders' chemistry was palpable and their emotional portrayals enthralling.
Then only real problem with this was me, I always have to concentrate heavily in Shakespeare to decipher the meaning behind the language. I am definitely keen to try the Bunker experience in Morgana or Agamemnon to see if I can get the full immersion experience with a hopefully simpler set of dialogue.
Having said that, this is just brilliant: the setting worked seamlessly with the story, and props were used with artistic flair, to transform the four actors into the various roles of Macbeth. This is probably the most inspired reimagining of a Shakespeare classic since Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.