REVIEW: I, Banquo – Lyric Theatre, Belfast

ibanquo“Imagine, just imagine” Michael Patrick bellows as he invites the audience on a journey of ambition, power, madness and betrayal.

Tim Crouch’s ‘I, Banquo’ explores Shakespeare’s Macbeth through the tormented eyes of his murdered best friend, from the fantastical meeting of the three weird sisters, throughout Macbeth’s demise until his bloodied end.

Only a white bucket and a step stood on the stripped back stage; beside it a figure under a white sheet, their pale hand peeping over the top. Appearing a ghostly white and dressed in white clothing, Banquo launched into the beginning of his fifty minute monologue, with the over – arching self – realising question of: it could have been me.

“Imagine you stood beside your best friend” he asks a sold – out room, before transitioning himself within the plays text to that fated encounter with the witches, and ultimately the beginning of Macbeth’s downfall. These snippets from the original text were woven through in the form of flashbacks, and Michael’s ability to fluctuate between various regional accents accentuated the deeply fragmented psychological states of the characters depicted. This was most evident whilst performing Macbeth’s iconic vision of the dagger, and his heartfelt ‘Out, out brief candle’ soliloquy. It was not all doom and gloom; little light hearted remarks after each Shakespearean quotation, particularly those in reference to Lady Macbeth, where like little islands of laughter in an ocean of despair, and brought in a dark comedic vibe to the performance. Crouch’s scriptwriting too is delicately crafted; alongside these little sarcastic relics are some stunning lines, almost poetic in their nature; “My breath melts into air” Banquo whispers as he relives that fateful night, is one beautifully written line.

The white bucket does not stay white for long – like Macbeth’s conscience, the cleanliness of the set soon fades. Through the thunder and lightning, Michael’s re – inaction of Banquo’s murder scene and subsequent haunting at the dinner table is intense, dousing himself in blood and gorily depicting his murder with such force that myself (and a few others – I swear) jumped a bit in our seats. The once white set now lay bloodied – “I just had to get this off my chest” Banquo announces, exasperated, as he lays down on the step. Replaying and re – questioning Macbeth’s final actions so attuned, that even if you had not read or heard or seen or knew of Shakespeare and this play – it could still be followed.

Crouch’s retelling of this classic Shakespearean tragedy is a captivating different perspective on the examination of the psyche, exploring the darkest corners of human ambition, and questioning the lengths one would go to achieve it. Tascha Kennedy, GiggingNI.com