A tale of sound and fury: Shakespeare’s Croydon facelift

BELLA BARTOCK’s big night out this week was in Carshalton, to see Macbeth re-set amid the flames of last year’s riots. She found much to admire

Dubstep remixes of Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky are not what you’d expect in the auditorium before a performance of Shakespeare. The knowledge that the rendition of “the Scottish Play” at Carshalton’s Charles Cryer Studio Theatre drew its inspiration from Croydon’s Riots of last August offered the hope that there was some method in this madness.

Blood on his hands: Roberto Prestoni, as Macbeth, and Helena Nattrass as Lady Macbeth

I was eager to see what director Paul Grace intended to draw from Shakespeare’s tale of greed, ambition and bloodlust by linking it with the violent events so fresh in the memory of this audience of locals. Uprooting the setting from the medieval Scottish aristocracy to south London gangs in 2011 certainly gave the play a fresh, if not slightly confused, face.

Although some statement about greed and gang-culture hierarchy had been made, the link Grace established between Shakespeare’s story of the “overleaping ambition” of a noble warrior, corruption and power seemed at times to fit only tenuously with more recent events, which most agree were motivated by nothing deeper than the ambition to rock a new pair of high-tops.

While it was understandable to have the cast dressed in hoodies and tracksuits, the sporadic array of south London chav jargon and thug accents left me lost in placing Shakespeare’s hierarchy specific story in Croydon. What further muddied the water was the centreless mix of generic “scummy” mannerisms, making it difficult to genuinely believe we were watching the corruption of a single south London gang.

Unfortunately, Roberto Prestoni as Macbeth failed to add direction to the play. His repetitive and inflexible characterisation made certain scenes stagnate. It was a shame that such a minimalist set exacerbated the cast’s weaker moments, where it was necessary to be as vibrant as possible with their movement and diction.

One actress who really took off while others crumbled was the young Helena Nattrass as Lady Macbeth, her first role with this company. She breathed new life into what was at points a stale performance of the play and injected the reckless ambition and energy into the piece. Her’s was an outstanding take on Lady Macbeth.

Final reckoning: Macduff, played by Peter French (left) gets to grips with Roberto Prestoni's Macbeth

Some excellent comic relief was provided by fluid and explosive comedy from the Porter (the actor is not credited in the programme). The epitome of the director’s efforts to give a fresh take found its manifestation in the skid-marks and on-stage pissing of this beautiful drunken mess.

Overall, the Breakfast Cat Theatre Company’s often troubled production provided a fresh take on Macbeth, giving much to compare between the motives in the gang-culture of the Croydon mandem, and the same poisonous and intense drives which inspired Shakespeare to write about the demise about power and greed 400 years ago.

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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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