Macbeth, Mark Bruce Company at Frome Merlin and touring

THE unfolding drama of the Scottish Play is the perfect vehicle for dance, as packed Merlin audiences discovered in Frome this week.

The occasion – heralded as the arts event of the week in the national press – was the opening of Mark Bruce’s new dance theatre piece,  Macbeth, based on the familiar Shakespearean story of ambition and murder and set (principally) to the music of Arvo Part.

Bruce’s company has been based in Somerset for some years, and last November opened its permanent studio in Frome, which could become as famous in the dance world as is Wuppertal.  Local audiences have seen the early stages of many of Bruce’s works, notably the award-winning Dracula and 2016’s The Odyssey.

Now it’s time for his distillation of the story of the battle for the crown of Scotland, opening as ever with the three weird sisters planting a reckless seed of potential in the head of the warlike Macbeth. Of course they knew his wife would tend the seed with the richest compost – the chance to be king.

I have never seen dance which more clearly evokes familiar speeches, without ever becoming mired in the weight of narrative.

Once again the company’s star dancer Jonathan Goddard demonstrates his powerful charisma in the title role, with Eleanor Duval as his scheming but inconsolable wife.

Carina Howard, as the murdered Duncan’s daughter, tears out your heart, part of a nine-strong company whose members tell multi-faceted stories  with the flick of a shoulder or the turn of an ankle.

Phil Eddolls’ monumental set encompasses battlefields, forests, castles and moors, superbly lit by Guy Hoare.

Macbeth is sold out at Frome, where it stays until Saturday, before a UK tour that includes four weeks in the atmospheric setting of Wilton’s Music Hall in London, and visits to Exeter and Salisbury in May.

Dance theatre like this is a rare treat.


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