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Macbeth at Stafford Castle for the Stafford Festival Shakespeare

An eerie production of Macbeth is playing at the grounds of Stafford Castle for the Stafford Festival Shakespeare this July

Macbeth at Stafford Festival Shakespeare
“What’s done cannot be undone…” A perfect setting for Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy

You don’t often get an invite to see one of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays in a setting so perfect, you’d think the Bard had written it into the act himself.

But this July, the annual Stafford Festival Shakespeare returns and brings a dark and dramatic portrayal of Macbeth to the atmospheric surroundings of Stafford Castle. The remains sit atop a hill a short drive out of the town centre and provide a simply stunning setting for an outdoor production like this.

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A short but steep walk up a tree-lined path with the castle ahead of you helps to bring you into the right frame of mind. With nothing around but fields and trees, you are catapulted into the atmosphere of the night – which for us was the supernaturally-charged tragedy of a Scottish-set Macbeth. If it wasn’t for this heat wave, you might think you were on some sort of Halloween pilgrimage.

As you walk to your seats, bagpipes are playing softly in the background and there was even a giant falcon on the arm of one of the cast, who incidentally are already on stage setting the scene – a great way to bring the audience to attention quickly! The medieval-designed stage is a good size with two levels and the audience are seated in three sections to the front and sides of the stage – there’s just the right amount of seating too; not too many to make it lose that intimate feeling but enough to make you feel comfortable.

Nabil Stuart as Macbeth

The story follows the warrior general Macbeth fighting for the nobel King Duncan. After success in bringing down rebels to the crown, he is visited by three witches who prophesise his future and tell him that he will rule the land one day. When their visions begin to come true, Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, embark of a dark and murderous scheme to bring his fortune to reality.

The play itself is as you would expect – there’s loads of drama, blood and gore and some pretty impressive acting too – but one thing’s for sure, you’ll be gripped by this highly imaginative and well-produced version of it.

Rosie Hilal as Lady Macbeth

Lighting (after the sun sets) and sound effects thrown in – you’ll start to forget that you are sat on top of a hill in the countryside (although you might want to take a cushion for comfort and a blanket for the later part of the show!) as the events play out in front of you. Smooth transitions, great sound projection and all the frills you’d expect from an ‘indoors’ theatre production pull it together. Granted, it’s not the easiest play to follow but the actors do a great job in bringing it all to life, there’s plenty of action on stage, especially during the 2nd act when it really comes into its own.

Bil Stuart as Macbeth

All of the cast were sensational despite an obviously challenging script and they used the atmosphere and staging perfectly to bring us into the story making sure each and every audience member was on board for this turbulent ride.

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Nabil Stuart was brilliant at bringing Macbeth’s troubled and somewhat whining character to life, as was Rosie Hilal as Lady Macbeth, especially during her sleep walking monologue. The witches, played by Sian Mannifield, Nicola Jo Cully and Mairi Hawthorn are a highlight definitely – they were bizarre, intriguing and thoroughly wicked and you were eager to see them return to the stage.

Daniel Cahill as Macduff

Another stand out performance for me was that of Macduff, played by Daniel Cahill – although you don’t really appreciate his performance until the last half an hour of the play. He plays a perfect tortured soul on the hunt for revenge.

Read more: Meet the full cast of Stafford Castle’s Macbeth 

The eerie atmosphere continues after the curtain closes too – the cast run on and run off the stage just as quick leaving you with just the sounds of a lone bagpiper standing on a mound and the dark of night. Loved that.

Originally set in the ‘11th Century’, Macbeth lends itself perfectly to the backdrop of Stafford Castle, and there really is something special about being able to spend entertaining evenings outdoors during the summer and this is certainly one you’ll not forget.

Macbeth runs until Saturday 14th July 2018 at Stafford Castle, with tickets available from just £14. Full ticket information can be obtained from the box office on 01785 619080 or Stafford Festival Shakespeare 2018.

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