Shakespeare in Atlanta - the Scottish Play comes to town.
And it's spookily authentic.
Busy Peachtree Street in midtown Atlanta is probably the last place you’d expect to find an impressive Elizabethan-style playhouse inspired by Shakespeare’s London Globe.
Inside, a dedicated professional company of players faithfully perform the Bard’s works (and even some non-Shakespearean stuff) while audiences feast from a Brit pub-style menu featuring shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasties and English ales. It’s all so 16th century you could almost be back in Stratford Upon Avon circa 1599, but without the bear-baiters, pedlars and rowdy crowds pelting food at the actors.
For many years, I’ve been a big fan of everything The Atlanta Shakespeare Company does. So much so that attending their production of A Christmas Carol even became an annual holiday tradition for me and my friends. That was until Covid struck, and The Tavern closed its doors and stayed dark for almost 17 months. However, news that it's open once again, and with a brand new production of Macbeth on the boards, reminded me how much I’d missed my Tavern nights and how badly I craved another
Ever since I studied it for O-Level English many, many moons ago, Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy has been one of my favourite plays. As I love to tell my young students now, it’s the darkest, spookiest of all the Bard’s works - with such scary stuff as witches, ghosts, murder, blood and gore galore.
What’s not to like?
I managed to grab a seat for The Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s final performance of The Scottish Play, starring Nick Faircloth and Amanda Lindsey MacDonald as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively. Amanda appeared as the epitome of a Scottish noblewoman with her flowing, ginger locks, clothed in gorgeous gowns and Celtic cloaks. There were lords (thanes) and guards in authentic tartan kilts battling carefully choreographed sword fights. The three “weird sisters” were suitably spooky and grisly, and I loved Kenneth Wigley as the porter, delivering a little light comic relief from all the treachery and turmoil in a very convincing Scottish accent. I thought J.L. Reed as Macduff was outstanding, especially his moving performance of sorrow and grief at the news of his family’s murder. Lady Macbeth was magnificent in her madness; first cradling then slamming to the ground a phantom babe in arms (merely an empty blanket) in a very powerful gesture.
The entire company did a great job as always, and it was such a thrill for me, a Brit in Atlanta, to once again see Shakespeare’s work so faithfully and professionally performed.
We may be 4000 miles away from the home of the Bard and 500 years later, but Elizabethan theatre is still going strong in Atlanta today, and American audiences are loving every minute. I can’t help but wonder what Will himself would make of it all - something so fantastical that even Macbeth’s witches could not have seen this coming.
If all the world’s a stage, we are so fortunate to have The Shakespeare Tavern right here on our doorstep, and it deserves our support. While the cast of Macbeth have taken their final bow and bade us farewell, there’s a whole program of other great productions to see all year round.
Make haste and grab thyself a ticket asap.