“There’s daggers in men’s smiles”: this Macbeth is a riot

As if the events of August 8 last year were not dramatic enough, the Breakfast Cat Theatre Company is about to make a drama out of Croydon’s crisis, staging a riot-inspired adaptation of Macbeth later this month.

Many of the cast live in Croydon and directly experienced the riots. Roberto Prestoni, who plays Macbeth, was holed up in the Green Dragon pub for several hours when the owner locked the door to prevent rioters from entering the premises.

When Prestoni arrived home later in the evening, he discovered that a looter from Brixton had been shot dead right outside his flat.

Macbeth’s director Paul Grace decided that the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty created by the rioting was a perfect backdrop for a modern take on Macbeth. “The unrest and riots in south London last year created a group that was separate from rational society, performing extreme actions fuelled by envy, frustration and rage,” Grace said.

“Our production imagines an unstable hierarchy within this dystopian society and provides the setting to bring Shakespeare’s most famous and dramatic text into a modern setting for a modern audience.”

To tie in with this setting, Breakfast Cat has teamed up with local filmmaker Sarah Johnson to create a spoof news report viral video, seen here.

Ellie Dawes plays the Thane of Ross in the play and wrote the script for the video.

She said: “Social media was a key part of the riots for me, my housemate wouldn’t let me leave the house in the evening so I sat watching the news reports roll in. My Twitter stream was going crazy and YouTube was full of amateur video of Reeves Corner burning.

“We could smell the smoke from our living room, it was surreal. The next day the papers were full of accusations that rioters had organised themselves via Twitter, and the Twitter community fought back by organising clean-up missions across London.

“So when I was thinking about how we could be promoting this production online I wanted to tap into that experience. Teaming up with Sarah to make the video viral was brilliant, she really put across the disturbing paranoia and that surreal feeling you get when the fabric of society is being ripped apart.

“Most of the dialogue in the video is lifted directly from the script, which highlights what a great fit the riots are as a setting for Macbeth.

“I also created a Twitter account for my character @ThaneOfRoss. Ross is the character in the play who is always telling other characters about what’s going on, so it made sense to me that she would be the one coordinating the rioting and looting via social media.”

Not everyone loves the idea of a local production featuring rioters. Some local shops have removed the poster from their windows because they do not like the image of a hooded figure. Perhaps for some, the memories of last summer’s destruction are still a little too fresh. But Breakfast Cat hope their imagery and setting will not cause any offence.

“We love our local community and that’s why we want to set a Shakespeare play here,” Dawes said.

Breakfast Cat’s last production was a Halloween fundraiser to help local businesses bounce back, which raised £480 for Croydon Recovery and Roy’s TV Shop, which was ransacked by looters.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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