A one-woman version of Macbeth is already an interesting concept – and here, Korean theatre company Choin’s concept translates the Scottish Play’s protagonist into an actor obsessed with the play she must do, with varying degrees of success.
Naturally, Shakespeare’s story has to be condensed significantly to fit into a one-hour running time – thus, Choin Theatre Company (of Korea) replace a huge amount of text with atmospheric performance. Their one-(wo)man Macbeth (male and female actors alternate performances; I reviewed the lady, whose name I unfortunately wasn’t told and cannot find anywhere online) is a hugely physical show – with constant jumping around, and even dancing, of the energetic actress. Through physical movement, aided by symbolic use of colour, she depicts the ecstasy and madness at the heart of the Scottish Play. For audience members with basic knowledge of the plot surrounding Macbeth and his wife, occasional glances at the surtitled translations suffice to understand what is being presented on stage – at least for the first part.
As the show progresses, the actor’s determination to be Macbeth leads her to change the course of action; she will not let herself see Macbeth’s demise, and is prepared to do anything to stop it. While the performance depicts the ecstasy and the madness, it does so by largely focusing on ambition – and much less on other aspects dealt with by the original, such as questions around gender and nationalism. This could actually have easily been Iago, only that Macbeth – as a basis – gives the mystical atmosphere due to the presence of the three witches. With Lady Macbeth being brought down to the level of a finger puppet, Choin Theatre Company do take away one of the crucial relationships of the story. And by the end of this version of the play (spoiler alert, sorry), Macbeth has killed his wife – thus completely ruining her character.
All together, this Macbeth is ambitious in its concept but loses grasp on relationships: both personal and national. It communicates best the actor’s madness and obsession, that match those of Macbeth, but would also match a number of other characters through Shakespeare’s work and further afield. Recommended for the joy of playing, rather than for the great text that is its basis.