Bussey Building, CLF Theatre

Reviewed – 2nd November 2017



“It proves that Shakespeare can be, when executed correctly, staged in a million different ways”


Nowadays Shakespearian performances can often be met with additional scrutiny, usually with how well they meet the criteria for utilising the words and traditional style “correctly.” Arguably, this has been heightened following the fiery debates surrounding The Globe’s former Artistic Director Emma Rice, and her creative decisions, attempting to bring a certain modernity to these historic texts. Devil You Know Theatre Company’s performance of Macbeth at The CLF Theatre in Peckham proved that Shakespearian texts can appeal to a modern audience whilst still maintaining the main features from the original writings.

The CLF Theatre is based in Peckham’s Bussey Building, a multi-level warehouse space run by the Chronic Love Foundation. There couldn’t be a more suitable venue for such an intimate rendition of one of Shakespeare’s greatest Tragedies. The stripped back Black Box theatre, complete with exposed brickwork, was the perfect backdrop for this particular performance of Macbeth. Although at the beginning it wasn’t particularly clear in which era this adaptation was set, it was obvious that director Paul Tomlinson had chosen to capitalise on one of Macbeth’s dominant thematic traits, war. As the performance began, the pace was particularly slow, although within the first couple of scenes it picked up swimmingly. I couldn’t believe the duration of the performance was over 2 ½ hours, as the pace of the piece kept my attention throughout, which is not something I can say for many previous performances of Macbeth I have seen – even though it is my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays.

The intimate setting as well as the pace were the winning combination for this particular adaptation of Macbeth. Additionally the actors, particularly Sadie Pepperell (Lady Macbeth), Cameron Crighton (Banquo) and Jake Sullivan (Angus/The Bleeding Sergeant/First Murderer), added an incredible energy from start to finish, accompanied by some beautiful characterisation. The pace in the second half rose to a wonderful crescendo as the audience followed Macbeth’s slow descent into a blood-thirsty, maddening rage.

Whilst the production perhaps often relied on props, it never felt like it was a meaningless addition to the overall performance. This was particularly true for the weaponry that features heavily in this particular play and seemed reminiscent of original Elizabethan versions of the text. The selection of the text performed kept recognisable lines from the play but it also seemed the director had made the wise decision to cut down large chunks of it. This allowed for the performance to maintain its engaging pace and for the plot to move along as quick as possible. There was barely a beat between scenes which allowed for the actors to maintain the audience’s attention.

This performance demonstrated how to carefully adapt Macbeth. It proves that Shakespeare can be, when executed correctly, staged in a million different ways and yet still maintain the timeless themes that run through all the texts. It’s incredibly accessible, and would work as an excellent introduction to any audience member who has not had the chance to experience a Shakespearian performance before. Devil You Know Theatre Company proved that an excellently executed version of Macbeth doesn’t have to rely heavily on expensive sets, costumes or props. Its predominant focus was upon the delivery of the text itself, which I’m sure would satisfy even the harshest of Shakespearian critics. However, a gentle warning to those who aren’t a fan of fake blood, there is a copious amount in this performance!



Reviewed by Claire Minnitt

Photography by Scott Rylander




is at the Bussey Building until 18th November



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