Tag Archives: Henry Maynard

The Tragedy of Macbeth

The Tragedy of Macbeth


Southwark Playhouse

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH at Southwark Playhouse


The Tragedy of Macbeth

“It is a whirlwind, whirligig production.”


You wander into the space at Southwark Playhouse at your peril, like an outsider may unwittingly stray through the gates of Bedlam. Flabbergast Theatre’s take on ‘The Scottish Play’ eschews Jacobean pomp, placing us somewhere in an uncertain dusty battlefield. A prolonged pre-show has the company writhing demonically, not yet fully formed. Caked in clay they are yet to be moulded into their characters. It is bestial and raw. With fractured moans and tics, elastic limbs and fits they writhe insect-like. Repetitive. Like nomadic animals in captivity – indicative of the madness into which we are soon to be plunged. “’Tis time, ‘tis time”. It doesn’t take us long at all to be swamped in their madness. We are already there. It is primitive, tribal. A mix of middle earth, pre-history, Norse warmongering, druid dystopia. A heightened apocalypse. Taiko rhythms deafen the senses, and the witches proclaim their prophecies in unison. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

We wonder where we can go from here. The extraordinary opening cannot afford to dip, but has it got the energy to rise. Its sheer strength proves to be the one weakness that keeps the performance on the one level throughout. Thrilling as it is, it is relentless, leaving us wanting more of the stillness. More relief. But when those moments do come, they are truly striking, and the combined talents of this cohesive ensemble shine through. Attuned and in tune, the performers interact as one: their individual backgrounds adding rich flavours that “in the caldron boil and bake”. Physical theatre, puppetry, clown work, percussion, ritual, mythology, European folk music, and medieval chant are brought together under artistic director Henry Maynard’s steely direction.

Maynard is also tonight’s Macbeth (not always – some cast share roles and interchange on a nightly basis). A rich-voiced, booming presence not quite emasculated by Briony O’Callaghan’s Lady Macbeth. O’Callaghan, vampiric in her thirst for blood and status, gives a striking performance, both baiting and taming Maynard’s feral Macbeth. The supernatural nature of Shakespeare’s play is powerfully portrayed, often relying on just the performers’ bodies. Deep red wine symbolises the copious spilt blood. At times the wine and blood are as one, especially when Simon Gleave beautifully crackles as Banquo’s ghost, spitting and pouring claret-hued and venomous fear into the veins of Macbeth. Flabbergast are not afraid to go out on a limb, while remaining loyal to Shakespeare’s text. Comic relief comes courtesy of Dale Wylde’s Porter; a rubber-faced, New-Age Mr Bean at the gates of the castle.

Multi-rolling Daniel Chrisostomou comes into his own, particularly in Act Two as Macduff, plotting his revenge, while Kyll Thomas-Cole’s eye-catching Malcolm teases and tests his motives. One of the more riveting scenes, on a par with the stillness of the soliloquies. These moments, though, struggle to be remembered once the panoramic bombast subsides. The symmetry, synchronicity and physicality of the performance is undeniably exhilarating. It does not probe too deeply into the sexuality or the chemistry between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In today’s climate one expects the subject matter inherent in the text – what does it mean to be a man, or a woman? – to be milked for all its worth and given the ‘correct’ treatment. This show, deliberately or otherwise, admiringly leaves it up to the audience, respecting intelligence by not spooning out popular judgement. The resonance stands on its own.

It is a whirlwind, whirligig production. One that captures the ethos of “Macbeth”, even if the story is one of the casualties, strewn among the body count. Yet it is a powerful, thrilling and quite extraordinary interpretation. A unique, sensory overload that can probably be heard across Southeast London, but should definitely be experienced up close.



Reviewed on 16th March 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Michael Lynch



Previously reviewed at Southwark Playhouse:


Smoke | ★★ | February 2023
The Walworth Farce | ★★★ | February 2023
Hamlet | ★★★ | January 2023
Who’s Holiday! | ★★★ | December 2022
Doctor Faustus | ★★★★★ | September 2022
The Prince | ★★★ | September 2022
Tasting Notes | ★★ | July 2022
Evelyn | ★★★ | June 2022
The Lion | ★★★ | May 2022
Anyone Can Whistle | ★★★★ | April 2022

Click here to read all our latest reviews


A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Alexandra Palace

A Midsummer Nights Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Alexandra Palace

Reviewed – 7th September 2019



“a fun, playful and atmospheric take on Shakespeare’s comedy”


Hot on the heels of their previous innovative takes on Shakespeare, Felix Mortimer and Joshua Nawras of RIFT have taken the playwright’s greatest comedy and shoved it into the moody, atmospheric depths of the Alexandra Palace basement. Rarely opened to the public, this is a unique opportunity, and the RIFT team draw on the building’s history as the location for the first public television broadcast in 1936. Cradled by the BBC tower, the setting might be worth the ticket price alone.

Framing the story using this televisual theme, Egeus (Rob Myles) becomes Hermia’s (Dewi Sarginson) “agent”, a witty alteration that reminds you of the overwhelming power of contracts, and powerlessness actors can have in the working world. Escaping the world of cameras and lights with her lover Lysander, the two escape into the woods, followed swiftly by Demetrius and Helena. But as we all know, the course of true love never did run smooth.

The concept leaves you always wanting more. Just three rooms are used, with the audience plodding between them, at times unsure of the reason. Although it would have been a real treat to explore more of the nooks and crannies of the building, most of the action takes place in one long room, framed with two screens. Sat on upturned buckets, the audience become a fun plaything for the actors, and the odd audience-interaction went down a treat.

Some nice doubling sees Myles, energetic and playful, playing Puck as well as Egeus, two characters in thrall to the authority of Oberon/Theseus (Mike Adams). Hilary McCool’s costumes and some eerily incandescent 1930s music set the scene well, and it is fun seeing country shirts and corduroy pants get slowly dustier and dustier as the show goes on. The lovers really get going in the hilarious scene that sees Lysander (Ben Teare) and Demetrius (Sam Ducane) fighting over a baffled Helena (Phoebe Naughton), but they are overshadowed by the Mechanicals, who, as ever, steal the show. Penelope Maynard as Peter Quince is pedantic and grounded, and Henry Maynard, whose background in clowning is written all over his Bottom, booms and thunders his way through his greatest acting moment, playing to hilarious effect for the cameras as much as for the live audience.

All in all, it’s a bumpy ride both literally and thematically, but this turns out to be a fun, playful and atmospheric take on Shakespeare’s comedy. With exposed brick and dusty floor, hopefully this won’t be the last time theatre is brought to this wonderful location.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Lloyd Winters


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Alexandra Palace until 28th September


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Horrible Christmas | ★★★★ | December 2018
In Loyal Company | ★★★★ | June 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews