An in depth review of RIFT’s – Macbeth
#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters – 5* An incredible, overnight, immersive experience in Borduria; a place where, once you have been, you’ll definitely want to visit again.
Macbeth doth murder sleep
24 hours ago, I left the RIFT which had opened near a tower block in East London. I was dazed, confused and pretty tired. I was leaving with 100 Bordurian (pounds ?) in my pocket, dual nationality; having received my Bordurian passport on arrival, one of my own dark thoughts written on a piece of paper and the overwhelming urge to have a yak’s milk latte. I had just spent the last 13 hours at Balfron Tower, desperately trying to keep a grasp on reality, immersed in the newest RIFT production – Macbeth.
Macbeth takes place around this atmospheric abandoned tower block where RIFT have created a fantasy-fictional space; a mixture of a dystopian and utopian world where you question whether you are awake or asleep. Never just a neutral spectator, you may have your hands washed by a witch, end up spooning with Lady Macbeth, be complicit in murder after being asked to wash away the blood from the bathroom or, like me, do something random like teach a porter to curtsy. All of this is completed with all the usual Macbeth themes; betrayal, lies and plenty of blood. But unlike any other adaptation which you may have seen, we are here for the night – a Macbeth sleepover.
Do you remember the last sleepover you had? My last one was when I was about 12. We did the usual girly things but part of it included writing letters to one another… about the people in the room; betrayal – tick. When someone who wasn’t supposed to read them, did, I am sure I must’ve told them that it wasn’t meant in the way it was written; lies – tick. Then we played Zombies, running around a dark house playing a game similar to hide and seek until someone ran into a wall and cut their head open; blood – tick. So I felt pretty ready for my Macbeth sleepover, “visceral experience.” However, it was more than I could ever have prepared for.
Arriving at Balfron Tower, you are greeted by the Border Control – headed up by Uri – to be processed ready to go through the RIFT. Having received your passport, Uri escorts you and your eight other theatre flatmates, to the place where the RIFT has opened and here the play begins. Walking through a dank underground carpark, in almost complete darkness except for a fire at the end of the passage, I am grabbed by the hand by a witch and led ahead of the others toward the fire. We, alongside Banquo and Macbeth encounter the witches for the first time. Surprisingly, they are speaking Shakespeare’s words – I had expected a modernisation of the speeches but you soon begin to realise they have stuck to the text fairly closely. Yes, there is some necessary adlibbing as the audience chat to the characters, alongside some additional scripted sections too but the classic speeches are all still there. People who don’t like “modern versions” of Shakespeare will probably still appreciate this as it’s not an interpretation, set on a spaceship or any of those other bizarre adaptations, it’s just a more intimate, intense, immersive restyling of the classic.
After meeting the witches, the play continues around the building. We are carefully led around by our fabulous guide, Piotr, played by David Loumgair, who I cannot praise enough. The Bordurian guides are not just there to shoo you between rooms; they are part of the whole set up. They get to know everyone’s names and what they are like, they encourage you to get to know each other, they ensure you are topped up with a glass of wine whenever possible but they also watch the drama unfold with you; genuinely shocked at what is unfolding before them and eventually they get conscripted into the army. Their role must be incredibly difficult given that they have to rigorously maintain their Bordurian accent and established character for the entirety of the night’s performance. Piotr did all of this to perfection. Given the crucial nature of the guides’ role, your experience will be uniquely affected by the guide you are paired with.
When the story is unfolding so close to you, the acting has to be perfect and this was most certainly the case; every single person in the cast was excellent. There are three sets of cast members so I can only speak for the ones I saw. Macbeth (Matthew Neal) made for an excellent protagonist and the fight scenes were perfectly choreographed by Yarit Dor. Lady Macbeth (Elly Condron) was particularly good during her sleepwalking scene – although earlier in the production when she wasn’t mad, some of her movements and facial expressions seemed a little over-the-top considering we were so close to the action rather than watching from an auditorium.
The moment of the evening for me was the killing of Lady MacDuff (Louise Torres-Ryan) and her child. This was the only time we saw her but she managed to utilise the intimacy of the space perfectly to produce a “hushed row” of utmost intensity that was powerful without being over-the-top. At the argument’s apex I found myself in the centre of the encounter as Lady MacDuff was overpowered by the scariest looking man I have ever seen. In the corner was the bloodied, beaten body of her child. It was horrifying and genuinely made me gasp, to the point where I was relieved when Piotr, concerned for our safety, removed us from the situation .
Logistically, this show is extremely difficult. All of the 90 participants need to experience everything. This isn’t a show where, depending where you are, dictates what you see. As a result, there are times when you are left to watch the TV in your flat to fill the gap when the actors are not actually with you. The first occasion was a program about Urivision – a competition to become fictional and enter the RIFT. This was funny at first but was quite farcical and dragged on a bit long. We also watched some breaking news about the war and a loop of the Bordurian military climbing the stairs while the war was being fought in each room. At midnight, when we were all so tired, this was also a little long. However, this isn’t the overwhelming thing that I have taken away from it and you soon wake up when the drama begins again.
As the war comes to an end, you are taken to the bar to see the victorious King Malcolm and at this point – around 1:30 – you can either go to bed or continue partying with the hard-core theatregoers until 2am, when the bar closes. You are then left to sleep until around 8am when you can go to the roof for breakfast and to see the stunning and unique views of the city.
The detail to which the RIFT team have gone with this production is admirable; the bar, the restaurant, the flats where the composition takes place, all of which have been impressively decked out with no detail left unturned. Pickled onions in the bar, Scottish-based books in the living room and a picture of the current King in every room you enter.
One of the only things I would change would be to suggest they invest in a tea urn in Borduria for late in the evening – I knew if I had another glass of wine I would drop off but a cup of tea would’ve been great.
Unfortunately, Macbeth is sold out, but if more dates are added, get those tickets. Not only will you see something truly unique, you will also behold the fabulous morning views of London from the roof of the tower during breakfast. This production has been put together with such care and meticulous attention to detail while every actor displays consummate professionalism throughout and eminently talented. However, it will not be for everyone – some people won’t be up for 12-hours of theatre. However, being in the RIFT, in the intense world of Macbeth, is one of the most exhilarating experiences that theatre can produce. RIFT are true masters of site-specific immersive theatre and I have no doubt that this is going to go down in immersive theatre history alongside Punchdrunk’s Drowned Man.
Finally – next time I go on holiday, perhaps I won’t be mentioning anything to passport control about my dual nationality. Maybe I did lose my grasp on reality after all but at least I didn’t get torn apart by the RIFT or lose a limb.
Please see https://playhousepickings1.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/dos-and-donts-of-going-through-the-rift-macbeth/ for some suggested Do’s and Don’ts of going through Macbeth
Writer: William Shakespeare
Directors: RIFT – Felix Mortimer and Joshua Nawras
Designers:Jasper Sutherland, Fern Blevins, David Myers, Barnabus Ianni, Florence Hazard, Eloisa Henderson-Figeuroa, Isabelle Carreira, Anna-Louise Hale, Tom Coxon, Simmone Klein, Andy Broadhurst ,Ashleigh Latter, Rebecca Hallen
Soundtrack: Sami El-Enany
Fight direction: Yarit Dor