February to April, 2018

Tobacco Factory

That Scottish play

A bloody tale of blind ambition, murderous regime change and supernatural forces is brilliantly told in this version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol.

Even before you step into the theatre, there is a pungent, dark smell, where the central round floor space has been covered with smashed and ground-up rubber. It’s as if the very earth actors walk on shifts and sinks upon the Scottish moorland skin stretched over hell.

It’s a ground that is a place to hide secrets, to be dug up, treacherous, and full of death.

The three weird sister witches, dressed in white, faces bound with cloth, set the stage with their dark prophecies for the unfolding magic. I had no idea what language they sometimes used but it added to the fear element.

Macbeth is the play Shakespeare uses to delve into the darkest depths of the human psyche to where ancient superstition, iron will, want and lust for power lie entangled and hidden.

Macbeth, played ably by Jonathan McGuinness is a man only half-in charge of himself, who veers between desire for the crown and loyalty to the King while snapping at his heels, is the toxic determined wife.

Lady Macbeth, played superbly by Katy Stephens, slinks on stage: nervy, beautiful, a woman who hears the prophecies and without her own public power knows how to wield it in private and plots King Duncan’s grizzly death after a feast she and her husband host.

The murder brings instant regret and guilt to Macbeth and fuels his insecurity. On stage he launches himself into a murderous frenzy to protect his power and that’s as true of despots today as it ever was.

The stunning scene in which Lady Macbeth is witnessed sleep-walking and rinsing her hands, trying to wash out the damn spots of murder is superb and I’m amazed at what a modern glimpse of the sub-conscious this 400-year-old play brings to life.  

I took my 13-year-old daughter and she was mesmerised.

One of the best scenes, for me, was the dinner party from hell, where Macbeth and his wife give a celebratory meal but murdered Banquo turns up and sits where the new King should be.

While nobody else can see this ghost Macbeth is arguing, pleading, throwing plates, glasses and chairs about and the other guests look on terrified while Lady Macbeth blames his childhood.

I loved the bleak white and black lighting, the timeless take on clothes – this could easily be today – and of course, Macbeth’s amazing soliloquy when everything has fallen apart and he realises far too late the truth about life - no matter if you’re a king or a pauper:


Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hours upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing


Never a truer word was said.

Macbeth is on at the Tobacco Factory in Bedminster until Saturday, April 7. Tickets from £12.

Recommended age 12+ as there are scenes of a violent nature.

For more information call the xox office on 0117 902 0344 or click HERE.

Melanie Greenwood

Director: Adele Thomas

Set and costume designer: Anisha Fields

Sound designer: Max Pappenheim

Lighting designer: Matthew Graham

Movement and fight director: Kev McCurdy

Photographs: Mark Dawson

Banquo: Aaron Anthony

Macbeth: Jonathan McGuinness
Duncan: Simon Armstrong

Malcolm: Jack Riddiford
Lady Macduff: Maggie Bai

Lady Macbeth: Katy Stephens
Porter/Witch: Cait Davis

Macduff: Joseph Tweedale
Ross: Mark Letheren

Witch/Gentlewoman: Laura Waldren