Sign In


[Theatre Review]: Come You Spirits, Lady M Debuts in Shanghai

Something wicked this way comes…
2024-05-18 12:00:00

Of all the variations of Shakespeare's Macbeth to be staged over the last 400 years since its inception, this must be the very first version in which the Scottish general who would be king raps—literally spitting hot fire—his bloody ambitions to the audience.

Making its Shanghai debut earlier this month and currently running at MIFA 1862 until June 2, is Lady M, "the untold story of Lady Macbeth," a re-imagining of the classic tragedy that places Macbeth's covetous, covetous wife at the focal point, telling her origins and perspectives against the unfolding events in interwoven flashbacks. Witness, from the annals of Western literature, a proper matriarch of destruction being given the wicked treatment she so richly deserves.

With music and book by James Beeny and Gina Georgio of British production company Toy Soldier Productions, West End star Karl Queensborough (Hamilton) stars in the China production, playing Macbeth, alongside British actor Richard Carson (Les Misérables, Joseph) as Macduff. The role of Lady Macbeth is shared by Maya Hakvoort, Li-Tong Hsu from the Netherlands, and Miao Mengchu from China.

With the fierce and talented Karl Queensborough bringing Hamilton bona fides to the proceedings, that's a good indication of what to expect for an audience. Lady M takes the source material and broad plot beats from the Shakespeare original but shifts the genre over a few spots into a fully sung-through modern musical and the aesthetics over 400 years into the future for a modern retelling of this classic story of power, guilt, murder, and revenge.

The music sweeps through a number of modern pop genres. Grungy acoustic balladry swells into bombastic, melodic, anthemic choruses fit to be released as pop chart singles. (And they have been. Search out "Paradox", sung by Queensborough on your favorite streaming platform to get a taste) Overall, the songs are bangers. Disney-adjacent pop, rock, R&B, and hip-hop hybrids that had us recalling Linkin Park, Eminem, and Evanescence in their angstier moments—read: all their moments—delivered by a committed cast.

This China-produced production of an original English-language musical is presented by Shanghai Culture Square and Xujun Drama & Musical and boasts some unsettling but mesmerizing set design. It's staged as a semi-immersive production, with the audience on two sides of the stage. The stage itself breaks apart, raises and lowers under the performers' feet on hydraulic lifts, and the mise-en-scene is awash in eery shadows, askew angles, and flickering lights like a German Expressionist movie. It's paranoid. It's gothic.

And it doesn't let up: two hours of blood, witchcraft, destruction, and murder before that classic, tired, deflated denouement. If you're looking to experience yet another bracingly modern permutation of Macbeth after the long-running Sleep No More production that Shanghai's been enjoying for the past several years now, slot this one in your calendar. Two truths are told...

Lady M runs at MIFA 1862 until June 2. Tickets available here.