Macbeth

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Norwich Playhouse

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Norwich Playhouse

Slow moving music in an unusual style, banners with strange devices and, most impressive of all, a pair of magnificent fighting dragons give an oriental air to the start of the Long Overdue Company's production of its shortened version of the Scottish play. There is a Celtic cross, too, suspended at a crazy angle, and in due course it also will play its symbolic part.

After a glimpse of the blasted heath the Three Weird Sisters send a chill down the backbone as they dance, serving to make the human characters all the more normal. They may dress in cloaks and wear armour, brandish their swords and daggers, even speak brave words. But they become more and more vulnerable as they contemplate their deeds.

No one captures the spirit more successfully than Lady Macbeth. She appears to be cast in the heroic mould until her nerve cracks. Her husband does not come across quite so well because at the start he cannot convey the confidence of a warrior returning in triumph. At the end, though, he rises to the occasion in spectacular violence.

With great use of music, smoke and blood to suggest battles and startling visual effects, the production makes a powerful impact. The battle tactics may borrow inspiration from the French World Cup team and with the coup de grace from Braveheart it's heady stuff. At other times ingenious ideas for staging, lighting or music take a little too long to prepare. The result is a loss of tension.