Review: Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre

Romeo and Juliet we ain’t, but Mr Viking and I do our best to keep the romance alive with a date night once in a while. A child-free evening is a rare treat, so we try to make the most of it by trying somewhere new. This time around, one place popped into our heads before any other: Shakepeare’s Rose Theatre, the pop-up Shakespearean theatre standing grandly in the shadow of Clifford’s Tower and adding some rare culture to one of my least favourite York car parks.

There are four shows running throughout the summer: Macbeth, Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. Ever the romantics, we shunned the love story in favour of Macbeth, a bloody tale of murder and deception that will have you clinging to your date for all the wrong reasons. I’d followed the progress of the theatre with interest, unable to imagine quite what it would look like or how it would work. It was quite a treat to head over there on a hot summer’s evening to see it in its entirety, the dream brought to life in a few short weeks.

The whole space has been transformed entirely: gone are the miniscule parking spaces, replaced by a little village of food huts, interesting historical displays and plenty of space to sit and soak up the atmosphere. There’s a wagon, too, from where free performances take place throughout the day. Those arriving hungry – it can’t just be us who never have time to eat before the babysitter arrives – can sate their appetite with freshly made burgers, pies, mussels or a simple tray of chips. Wine and beer are available in abundance and although the prices aren’t low, the quality is good.

And as for the theatre itself? It’s stunning, in a scaffolding-heavy, industrial-chic kind of way. We sat in covered seating on the lower level that was comfortable (vital for a performance of almost three hours) and gave us a great view of the stage. Ticket prices are on the high side so it’s worth considering seats slightly higher up or even in the groundlings area where you can enjoy the performance standing up (tickets are far cheaper here to take account of the fact that standing for hours is no mean feat and, if it rains, you’ll get wet!).

Having said that, the show itself was so gripping that perhaps we would have managed to stand. Macbeth is a bloody story and this is a no-holds-barred version, with shades of Game of Thrones. There’s murder, plotting and scheming galore, played out by an energetic and utterly convincing cast. Let’s be honest: Shakespeare can be hard work. Unless you’ve studied the plot line-by-line at school, it’s easy to feel lost and confused. We didn’t have that problem with Macbeth – the cast brought it to life and made it entertaining and easy to follow (and the synopsis in the programme helped too!). It was a cracking performance that carried us through to the curtain call. As we stumbled back into the medieval village, the sun was setting behind Clifford’s Tower and the air was still warm. It’s hard to think of a more unique date night experience in York this summer.
Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre is open until 2nd September 2018. Visit the website for more details and to book.

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