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A hag lies face down in a puddle of blood, bleeding from a messy wound, blood splattering her garment and smeared on the floor. The stark white plastic sheeting lining the walls comes in handy when wine is tossed over the shoulder from the banquet table. Montague Basement’s production of Macbeth will bring out the OCD in you as you watch cast members sidestepping the sticky blood puddles (and with the spills to be cleaned up – please!).

For two hours non-stop, this bold interpretation of the Shakespearean tragedy only has seven actors, whereas the original play when first performed around 1606 had almost 30. There is one witch instead of a coven of three. Delightful wood block percussion and thunderclap sound effects indicate the act and scene changes.

In response to the witch’s prophecies, Lady Macbeth wishes her husband to murder King Duncan (Travis Ash) in order to obtain kingship. Macbeth goes on a murdering rampage, fuelled by the desire for power, killing Duncan, then his guards, then arranging for the murder of Banquo.

In the leading roles are Robert Boddington (Macbeth), whose relationship with wife Lady Macbeth (Hannah Cox) is played passionately and authentically. He copes better with the murders than does his wife. She is completely undone by guilt and descends into madness. The enormity of Macbeth’s crime has awakened in him a powerful sense of guilt that will hound him throughout the play.

The gothic Act 4 Scene 1 is most memorable; a topless woman smeared with tar-like black goo is wheeled out inside a cauldron/barrel, the mad hag chants captivating incantations; the famous “double double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble”. There’s imagination shown in this adaptation, directed and designed by Saro Lusty-Cavallari and produced by Imogen Gardam. This young, new and quirky take on an old classic is artistic and aesthetically done.

With its up-and-coming, fresh faced, young cast, this production is especially enjoyable for those who are familiar with The Bard and can appreciate all the nuances that make this surreal, abstract production unique. Macbeth shares a Shakespeare-based double bill with Montague Basement’s contemporary take on The Taming of the Shrew. (MS)

Until Dec 10, performance days/times vary. PACT Centre for Emerging Artists, 107 Railway Parade, Erskineville. $21.89-$27.12. Tickets & info: www.montaguebasement.com

BY MEL SOMERVILLE