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Nicola Wright

Review: MACBETH at The Barbican

Macbeth - Barbican Two elderly women, their backs hunched, climb the steps to the stage and slowly draw back two vast doors to reveal the epic opening of The Ninagawa Company's production of Macbeth. With the three witches played by male actors in full Kabuki dress the scene is set for this epic visual feast.

Set in 16th century Japan, Macbeth is portrayed as a hungry Samurai warrior slashing his way towards power, passionately played by Masachika Ichimura. Colluding and urging him forward on this murderous path is the scheming Lady Macbeth beautifully portrayed by Yuko Tanaka. The cast of over thirty are a force to behold, at times it is like watching an epic cinematic film. We watch in wonder as Spring turn to Autumn, the giant cherry blossom losing its bloom falling like giant snowflakes, horses appear to walk on stage and brutal battle scenes are depicted under the perfectly atmospheric music and sound design by Katsuji Takahashi. The illusion seems as real as it possibly could be on a stage, thanks to the creative genius that was Yukio Ninagawa.

Of course watching a play in a language other than your own has its drawbacks, eyes shift between subtitles and back to the stage and some moments are therefore lost. However thanks to the familiarity of this tragedy and the striking visuals we are able to follow Macbeth's journey through to his brutal end.

This version of Macbeth was the first Ninagawa production to be staged in London thirty years ago, and has been seen by audiences the world over. With the death of Ninagawa last year at the age of eighty one, the production has been faithfully recreated and brought to the Barbican for four nights. Bringing together some of the original creative team it is a tribute to this visionary director's work. Thanks to the stunning set design by Kappa Senoh, lighting design from Sumio Yoshii and costumes from Jusaburo Tsujimura we are treated to a vivid palette of colour and wonder.

It has been said that to see one of this great directors Shakespeare productions is an 'experience of a lifetime'. if you are fortunate enough to see this sold out show, you will leave with memory of a theatrical experience that will certainly be everlasting.