Review: Tara Arts performance of Macbeth at Buxton Opera House

Macbeth at Buxton Opera House on March 10, 2015
Macbeth at Buxton Opera House on March 10, 2015

Tara Arts, founded in 1977 to promote cross-cultural theatre and led by artistic director Jatinder Verma, put on an unusual performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ at Buxton Opera House.

The well-known dark tragedy has been transformed into a modern-day story of an Asian family’s path to self-destruction.

Spectacle, costume, dance and music establish the story in an Indian setting. A crimson turban crowns the head of Maharajah Duncan and then the usurping Thane of Cawdor. The three witches, portrayed as members of India’s transgender community, the hijras, are menacing in beards and sparkling saris, as they provoke ambition in Macbeth and set the scene for murder and intrigue. Action is enhanced by excellent on-stage drummer, Rax Timyr, who also provides sound effects.

Robert Mountford is commanding as Macbeth, well matched by Shaheen Khan as his ruthless wife; together they make a chilling pair. The cast each play a number of roles, Shalini Peiris deserving special mention for her inspired and very funny Servant and Porter. One of the company’s strengths was their expressive movement, whether the poignant portrayal of the slaughter of MacDuff’s family or the menacing stylised dance of the advancing army bringing Birnam Wood to Dunsinane Castle.

The unusual setting and mode brought a new perspective to this hard and bitter play. This innovative production invited us look afresh at the ruins lying beyond greed and ambition.