We all know the story of Shakespeare's Macbeth: it’s an age-old tale about kingship, ambition and bloodshed. Whilst most modern depictions choose to stick to the play's original setting of 11th century Scotland, some directors change this to be more familiar for a modern audience. One such group who chooses to do this with their adaptation is the Guildford Shakespeare Company, who performed their version of the play for the Year 11 group at Sunbury Manor School in early September.


The Guildford Shakespeare Company is a local theatre company and arts education charity, and while they normally work as a larger team, only 4 actors were involved in the performance at Sunbury Manor. Some might guess the limited cast would make the play more difficult to perform, as the original text has around 20 characters, but the company pulled it off perfectly. Although some students found this change confusing and difficult to follow, most found the use of costumes, posture and accent when portraying different characters enough to make each one distinguishable, even if the people playing the roles stayed the same.


As mentioned before, instead of choosing to stick with the play’s original setting of medieval Scotland, this adaptation was shifted to be centred around modern warfare. Armour was replaced with camouflaged uniforms, daggers with military-esque knives and each costume centred around a specific army rank. The most noticeable change, however, was with the witches. While the appearance of the witches is mostly left up to interpretation in the play itself, most adaptions chose to portray them in a more traditional way: older women with long, grey hair and hunched over in dark cloaks. This version of the play completely turned this on its head, using gas masks, puppetry and tarpaulins to hide the true identity of the witches. This added to the overall mystery of the play, as the audience are never certain what the characters look like under their disguises.


Another key part of the play was how the cast created their own sets. The group were able to show a change of setting between scenes, even if the differences were minimal. Wooden crates, flags and maps were used to create a variety of backdrops and furniture needed for each key setting and scene. In addition, the team acted as their own cast and crew, controlling their own sound design and special effects to create a mysterious and eerie atmosphere perfect for a play focused around the supernatural. Whilst a school assembly hall isn't the most traditional environment for a group of professional actors, and COVID precautions limited the amount of audience participation and interaction between cast members, the group worked around their limitations to create the best performance that they could, showing their strength as a group.


Overall, the play was a success and went down well with the audience. It's no surprise that teenagers can be a tough audience, so for most students to come away with a positive outlook on the show demonstrates the group's ability to perform in an engaging, memorable and creative way. The play is mostly studied in script form at class, and not many students have access to live theatre especially across the last 18 months, so to have our own performance in school was certainly a strong way to start our final year at the school.


I would like to thank the Guildford Theatre Group for visiting the school to perform for the year group and the generous and kind attitude they had towards our students. You can read more about the group on their website at: