This week Downside Third and Fourth Formers took part in a rapid-fire version of Macbeth, with the help of visiting theatre company BoxClever.

From the start, it was clear that this was going to be dynamic and thrilling version; three actors dressed in black, a minimalist stage aesthetic and the emergence of characters from within the audience. Key moments were underscored by sound and music, with unusual and thrilling stagecraft bringing the key scenes to life.

The company carefully combined the original verse with integrated sections of modern English, commenting and questioning on the action. At one point an actor emerged stage right to explain and challenge the eponymous tragic hero, breaking the fourth wall in a spectacular and engaging style. As with all exceptional theatre, the key measure of success is silence – the sound of tension descending on our students as they watched, enraptured, seeing Macbeth sneak up on sleeping Duncan, or Macbeth demanding they stand as one to acknowledge his coronation. The moment of hesitation followed by everyone getting on the feet and applauding the tyrant was a startling demonstration of the power of theatre.

A workshop followed the performance, led by the actors who challenged students to see and feel the iambic pentametre and think how the lines work, just how it is that Shakespeare constructs meaning. A joyful and slightly hair-raising end saw three pairs of pupils participating in a four-stage fight scene. Careful training ensured all that all fight scenes struck true for the audience, but not the pupils, luckily.