There isn’t much to laugh about in Shakespeare’s murderous epic of ambition and blood. But then clowns are known as much for their sinister qualities as their sense of fun.
Here the two players miming us loosely through a condensed version of the tale are more akin to automata; their silent twitches and wriggles uncannily empty, their faces dead or frozen into imaginary masks of comedy and tragedy.
It’s the skill and absolute precision of movement that carries Ryukyu Cirque’s production, and turns its understated execution into something quite chilling. Both performers are exquisite in the detail of their craft, director Makoto Inoue vaudevillian and sharp, alongside quick, serpentine Riko Sugama. Clad in black historical mash-ups of lace, top hats, clown tears and voile, they use the fine red slashes of silk that form the set to arresting effect, crowning each gory climax with a cat's cradle of bloodshed. There’s a classical majesty to the duo, which sometimes makes their piece feel like tableaux from a pageant performed in any number of centuries.
But the storytelling is obscure in parts, and the action between familiar set pieces—Duncan’s murder, the ghost of Banquo—is sometimes so oblique as to leave you eager for the next anchor. Inoue’s soundscape of electro-jerks, belly cackles and traditional Japanese instruments however, and the intriguing visuals, make this a worthwhile watch for Shakespeare aficionados looking for a genuinely original re-imagining.