x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Modern-day Macbeth moves from Abu Dhabi to Dubai

The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Company moves its production of Macbeth.

The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Company cast present Macbeth at the National Abu Dhabi Theatre in Abu Dhabi.
The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Company cast present Macbeth at the National Abu Dhabi Theatre in Abu Dhabi.

DUBAI // Every seat was filled for the two performances of Macbeth at the National Theatre in Abu Dhabi last week.

Tonight, the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Company from London takes the show, often dubbed as "The Scottish Play", to Dubai's Madinat Jumeirah.

"It is a brave move" to bring the play to this part of the world, said Neil Constable, the company's chief executive. "But it shows people have vision here and they are dedicated to bringing their audiences top quality performers. I mean, among our company are some of world's best actors of Shakespeare."

The actors portray a modern-day version of Macbeth, where the characters have mobile phones and wear army camouflage, but the language remains true to the Elizabethan format.

Tonight is the first of two shows in Dubai that will portray the murderous Macbeth and his wife in their quest for power. Mr Constable said there has been no censoring.

"There is a lot of blood," he said. "And the style of performance is extremely intimate."

The company of 13 actors travelled from London, where they are used to playing in an Elizabethan replica theatre on the banks of the River Thames.

Part of the Globe's ethos is the exclusive use of human generated sound and natural lighting.

The policy is intended to create an authentic and traditional recreation of a theatre experience from the 17th-century. In London, a large part of the audience also stands in the pits below the actors' feet, as they would have done in Shakespeare's time.

Obviously some changes have been made to suit the UAE shows, but the house lights remain on in the theatre to give the audience the full feeling of integration and to allow the actors to respond to the audience's reaction.

"We have clearly had to use light and a specially made set," said Mr Constable. "But we will not have any problem going without microphones. The actors are used to playing to 1,400 people, so 500 will not be a problem.

Mr Constable only took over the executive position at the theatre in November, after spending seven years at another London theatre and 16 years with the Royal Shakespeare Company as a tour manager.

One of the main reasons for his move was the educational benefits of the company. Over the two performances in Abu Dhabi 500 children saw a simplified version of the play though Globe Education's Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank project, under of Bill Buckhurst, one of the resident Globe theatre directors.

"Bill squeezes the most complicated parts of the production so that it plays well for an audience of school children and the style of costumes makes it more accessible," he said.

"The Globe is not just a place of performance but a place for education," he said. "We have people building replicas all over the world and it would be fantastic if someone wanted to build one in the UAE. If Shakespeare is taught well then the impact it has on the children is immeasurable."

Bridin Harnett, teacher of English literature at Al Nahda Girls school in Abu Dhabi, said her students really enjoyed the performance.

"It was amazing, a very innovative kind of Shakespeare. The modern setting brought it into the world of the students, which was helpful. But if the function of it was to give people the chance to experience it fully, then it would have been good to have a short synopsis of the story, so we could have properly understood."