Date night: ‘Four of Swords’ production of Macbeth – in a cave in Beer, Devon.

Macbeth in a cave you say? Ah.. Go on then!

On Saturday 11th it was date night and I took the hubby to see fabulous local theatre company, Four of swords latest production of Shakespeare's 'Scottish play' in Beer Quarry Caves.

Four of swords aren't any old theatre company.  They specialise in immersive productions (walk through theatre experiences that treat the audience as part of the action).

Four of Swords are known for setting their productions in dramatic spaces and using multi-media visuals.  If you've been keeping up with my blog you'll know that I had the pleasure of catching their production of Frankenstein at Fulford House a while ago.  It was pretty epic and I've been keeping an eye on them ever since.

This time, the production was set in Beer Quarry Caves.  The caves are 2000+ year old man made caverns and are worth taking a trip to Beer to check out (I've added them to our 'To do' list).

We set off as soon as the sitter got to us and drove for around 40 minutes to the lovely seaside town of Beer. Here we had a fab meal at a local restaurant / hotel / pub that was recommended to me on Twitter, The Dolphin Hotel.

I ate Barracuda steak with king prawns and dribbled over the fresh seafood menu whilst trying to convince the hubby that Barracuda is a member of the Shark family.  The food was plentiful and tasty and the restaurant was packed! And we read this little ditty on the wall..

Down in Devon, Down in Devon, There’s a village by the sea.  It’s a little piece of heaven, And the angels call it Beer.

Beer does seem like a rather lovely place and we would have liked to explore more but we had a play to catch! The second showing, in fact (at 9pm).

We arrived at the caves and were equipped with hard hats and ponchos (it gets pretty cold down there).  When everything was ready we were asked to turn off our phones and head down a steep path to meet the actors.

At the bottom of the hill was the mouth of the cave where we found the three witches playing instruments and were ushered through the gate and into the caves.

We were immersed  immediately finding ourselves on the Heath where the witches insanely chatted, rhythmically enveloping us in their world.  The constant mumbling, movement and repetition created a layer of anticipation and built the tension.


Enter Macbeth and Banquo through the crowd and the prophecy was foretold. The chitter chatter of the witches echoing through the cave and the coldness – not dissimilar to the highlands in the morning – adding to the illusion.

Chard as Macbeth was very convincing from the start, he would have given Fasbender a run for his money. He mastered the dichotomy of the character, the internal battle between his lust for power and his morality.

Next cut to Lady Macbeth, beautiful, entrancing, calculating. Slinking like a panther in her tight black dress, the feathers around her throat falling down over her shoulders and rising around her neck as she became more powerful. She cut a lonely figure above us on the rock, fragile yet wholly fearsome.

Throughout the production characters were tucked away behind walls and in archways, percussion was in surround-sound and drums echoed down dark tunnels.

Macbeth's madness became more evident after he murdered King Duncan but he cracks after he plots to kill his friend Banquo on the advice of Lady M.  We are invited to the feast where we watch Macbeth lose the plot, questioning the guests (us the audience) while Lady M tries to style it out and convince us that all is well.

Four of swords are big fans of projections and this production didn't disappoint as banquo appeared on the white wall of the cave like an olden day Banksy tearing at Macbeth's conscience.

img_2859Lady Macbeth, beautiful and devious, nails the 'out damn spot' monologue, tearing at the audience and demanding a reaction to her agony, vulnerability, fear and guilt.

Macbeth is becoming madder as we are ordered (as the English army) to march on the castle. In front of us, McDuff and co. carrying the trees to represent the forest.  As the forest reaches Dunsinane Hill, Macbeth is waiting, ready for battle.

"Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come against him."

(I did wonder how they'd do that bit.)

MacDuff, avenging the family Macbeth had slain, fought to kill.  And as Macbeth died I did feel a bit sad for him.

Another great performance from Four of Swords, made more fabulous by the minimalism of the cave. Stripped down, with limited props the actors needed to be pretty special to make it work and they didn't disappoint.

Four of Swords are planning to return performing Frankenstein soon, email to get on the mailing list and stay up to date and check out their website here

Cast List: Macbeth – Costa Chard, Lady M – Sarah White, Banquo – Miall Yates, Malcolm – Aidan Casey, MacDuff- Philip Kingslan, John Seyton – Ben Tallamy, Witches – Mike Gilpin, Bethan Gurr & Elizabeth Burnette.


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