Lay On, MacDuff!

Last night we went to see Macbeth in the Blitz at a small community theatre on the other side of the river from where we live. The whole concept of community theatre appealed to me and I was so excited to go and enjoy an evening of local talent. I use the word talent local very loosely: it would have been quicker to swim across the Thames.

I misunderstood the blurb about the play. It read:

“It’s January 1941. The Docklands is in the midst of the Blitz. The shattering attack on East London is having devastating effects on its people and the landscape. In an attempt to restore normality, to resist in the only way they can, a group of actors perform Macbeth in an air raid shelter.”

My expectation was that the play would be about a theatre group putting on Macbeth during those difficult and horrendously frightening days. Instead, the play was Macbeth with the screeching of sirens and the sounds of bombs going off every now and then. The costumes were appropriate for that time, but apart from that the sense of history and context was kind of lost. I would have loved to have known the back story.

The cast reflected the diversity of London in 2011, complete with a female King Duncan and accents from Eastern Europe, Asia and South America. There was some fine and passionate acting and it was certainly an ambitious project for an amateur dramatics group to take on. We particularly enjoyed the actor whose self-conscious default was to stand with his arms hanging about his sides like guy ropes.

The play was put on at The Space. I had read about this beautiful old building in the Isle of Dogs, and had long wanted an excuse to visit. Last night’s play was the perfect opportunity to do so, although there was no direct route to get there – we had to take a bus, a tube and then another bus, although we could have taken a ferry then a bus. A twisty route, indeed.

The Space is a community arts centre, offering theatre, music, comedy and dance. Converted from a beautiful 19th century church, with stained glass windows, and a high, domed ceiling, The Space offers a theatre space as well as a delightfully cosy cafe/bar upstairs, known as the Hubbub. The theatre, as it was configured last night, seats about 50 people. The audience sat on either side of the hall, with the play taking place in the middle.

The Isle of Dogs is an almost-island in the East End of London, in the loop of the largest meander of the Thames. There is some speculation as to how the name Isle of Dogs came about, but it was recorded as such for the first time in 1588.

Two more tickets for our red box. A visit to another area of London we’d not seen before. An interesting performance of Macbeth in a beautiful, historic venue. It was worth braving the cold and the circuitous public transport route for all that.

Sunshine signing off for today!


35 thoughts on “Lay On, MacDuff!

  1. Oh, Sunshine…that sounds truly disappointing…you’re much too forgiving in your review!

    There’s nothing worse than paying money to see something, and having it not meet expectations! Hope the next performance you see is better…


    1. The play was hugely disappointing, Wendy, but I thought I would write about The Space and our adventure to a new place, which is always fun in London. Fortunately the tickets were not at all expensive! xx

  2. I love Shakespeare. In fact, spent a summer in Stratford-upon-Avon studying with the Royal Shakespear Institute, which is/was an academic arm of the Royal Shakespeare Company. ( This was 25 years ago).

    But good for you–that you resisted the urge to stay home where it was warm.

    Hugs from Haiti,

    1. I love Shakespeare too, Kathy. One of our favourite things to do every year in Cape Town is to go and watch Shakespeare at Maynardville, an outdoor theatre in the middle of a park. They always put on brilliant performances, always with a contemporary or different historic interpretation, which always works and is astoundingly creative.
      Great opportunity you had to study at the Royal Shakespeare Institute – how wonderful! xx

  3. The decsription of Macbeth with random sirens and bomb pops has me cracking up. Just imagine if you hadn’t read the description! You’d be ducking for cover and completely confused!

    1. True, Tori! It was confusing enough as it was… We did think about running out of the theatre with our hands in the air and shouting “no-o-o-o-o-o!” but that wasn’t so much because of the sirens and bombs…
      Thanks for coming by – welcome to my blog!

  4. Here’s what I want to know: where there actually witches in the Doclands in 1941? I’m trying to picture the adaptation’s “Double, double, toil and trouble” /”All hail Macbeth!” scene, and something’s not quite working for me.

    1. The witches were dressed like Air Raid Protection guards (which doesn’t really equate to witches, as they helped protect people during the Blitz). Their cauldron was an urn (water boiler) into which they threw grenades and such. Nah, didn’t work. It could have, but it didn’t xx

  5. I was just telling a friend that I rarely purchase theater tickets anymore because they are so expensive, and if I’m not enjoying the play, all I’m thinking is how much money I have just blown. At least it was community theater!

  6. I think, if you haven’t already been, you’ve earned yourself a tip to The Globe after your wartime Macbeth, Sunshine!! Best wait till the warmer weather kicks in though…

  7. Sunshine–
    wow. I would have misunderstood, too…
    however, ANY Shakespeare is better than NO Shakespeare–even in a 1941 Blitz setting…
    although, it’s always best if well done…
    how interesting…I do love all the new and interesting ways directors come up with to put on Shakespeare…

  8. In my previous life as a newspaper reporter, I covered my share of community theater, so I know what you’re talking about. Some of the stuff can be oh-so-good, but others are most disappointing. At least the tickets didn’t cost much and you were able to pull some pluses from this experience!

  9. The space sounds delightful even if the play wasn’t.
    Not the sort of play i’d go and see, i’d prefer a nice comedy.
    Though my only experience with theatre is the pantomine

  10. We used to live in a city there they had Shakespeare in the Park every summer. You’d go, take a picnic dinner and watch a free amateur production of a Shakespeare play. Some productions were excellent. Some weren’t. I can’t remember which play it was, but it was one of the tragedies, and it was set in Nazi Germany, and some of the soliloquies were turned into songs, and the whole thing had a sort of David Lynch vibe. We (along with most of the crowd) left at intermission.

    1. Oh wow, Todd, I think we would have left at intermission, too – I can’t imagine a Nazi Germany/musical interpretation of Shakespeare. We sat this one out so I could blog about it! 🙂 But then I felt too mean to describe it …

  11. I love Shakespeare and was actually in MacBeth in high school. After reading what you wrote about the play I would have misinterpreted what the play would be about too. Hope your next outing meets your expectations. Have a great weekend!

      1. Not a big role by any means. I was the apparition that came up out of the witches culdren. It was fun time getting ready for our “opening night” and all the other performances.

  12. I’m sorry the performance didn’t meet your expectations but thank you for having taken the risk.

    “A guy-wire or guy-rope, also known as simply a guy, is a tensioned cable designed to add stability to structures” 😉

  13. I want a red box now!! Even if we end up seeing not so mediocre stuff…. amongst finding good stuff.
    I would have misunderstood the blurb too.
    Would be interesting to hear more about how the name: Isle of Dogs came about. Sadly, we tend to think the worst straight away.

    1. Get yourself a red box and fill it with memories, bokkie! There are various theories about the name, Isle of Dogs,ranging from a possible corruption of the word “ducks” to the presence of hunting or feral dogs on the island. Quite interesting, I think xx

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