The British theatre company TNT, working in collaboration with American Drama Group Europe, is touring Finland this April with their long-standing production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They performed at Helsinki’s Savoy Theatre on Friday, April 12, the second stop on their four-city tour.
Known for their experimental style and prominent use of music as means of emotional storytelling, the company grew from a small avant-garde troupe in 80s Britain to an international theatre company known for their extensive repertoire of classic works of theatre and literature. Macbeth, which they have been touring worldwide since the 90s, was their first staging of a Shakespeare play.
A classic tale of how power corrupts and how prophecies have a tendency to self-fulfill, Macbeth is a dark play involving gruesome murders, eerie witches chanting around a bubbling cauldron and plenty of moments of madness and self-doubt. The TNT production delivered on all those, even though the blood did not exactly run in streams.
The titular protagonist is a Scottish nobleman returning from the war in which he successfully defended his homeland. On his way back he and his friend Banquo are accosted by three witches who prophesy that Macbeth will become king, which sets the dramatic gears in motion. Soon he is lead, at his wife’s further encouragement, to murder in order to see the prophecy fulfilled.
The production, directed by Paul Stebbings and Christian Flint, was a minimalist affair in many ways. The ensemble cast consisted of six actors and actresses, all of whom, save for Martin Christopher as Macbeth, took on two or three roles. The roles weren’t strictly gendered either, with women playing men and men playing witches.
The stage design was simple and to the point. Two panels covered in meshed fabric stood to each side of the stage, signifying both exteriors—such as forest, swamp, or garden—and the interior of Macbeth’s castle. When necessary, a red chair was brought on to serve as the king’s throne.
The same goes for costumes and make-up, which were not that extravagant, the most eye-catching being Lady Macbeth’s dresses. The characters wore simple garb, with only the king clothed in animal skin to appear imposing and the witches dressed in strange tasseled jumpsuits. As far as make-up and props go, it is curious that blood, while such a powerful motif in Shakespeare’s text, was barely present on stage.
All this made the lighting changes and the soundtrack all the more crucial in representing the supernatural elements of the play, as well as the general feeling of dread that the story ought to evoke.
The use of a soundtrack, scored by Paul Flush, with words whispered ominously in the background, the sound of drums beating in the night and bells tolling for the dead were especially poignant. Coupled with the green and blue lighting that colored the supernatural scenes, the soundtrack succeeded in creating that sinister atmosphere appropriate to the Scottish play.
The ensemble also held true to its style by including elements of dance and physical theatre at the appropriate moments, namely in the scenes with the witches and in the comic relief scene with the drunken porter, which is, despite its unimportance to the plot, a crucial tonal counterweight to the ensuing declaration of the king’s murder.
After Helsinki, and Turku before that, TNT is bringing Macbeth to audiences in Oulu and Rovaniemi.
‘Macbeth’ is continuing its tour in Finland in the following cities:
ROVANIEMI TEATTERI – Lappia-talo, Jorma Eton tie 8 A, 96100 Rovaniemi
10h00 and 13h00
OULU TEATTERI – Kaarlenväylä 2, 90015 Oulu
10h00 & 13h00