Macbeth: Sleep No More

Methought I heard a voice cry, sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep!
William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Macbeth

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Fireside Folktales Performance

All hail Macbeth that shalt be King hereafter…”

With these portentous words, the three witches seal the fate of not only the Thane of Glamis himself but also all the others whom Macbeth will dispose of on the way to fulfilling their deadly prophecy. 

Shadow Road brings you the condensed Fireside Folktales version of this widely-studied Shakespeare classic that retells the old story of the 11th Century Scottish King and examines the physical and psychological damage done by political ambition, both to those who seek power for its own sake and to those who get in their way…

Premiered in August 2020, this electrifying new adaptation of Shakespeare’s infamous tragedy promises to be the darkest entry yet in the Fireside Folktales collection. Featuring a certain amount of original material, it nevertheless remains true to its source, both in tone and content.

We can provide creative and educational workshops to accompany this production upon request.

Upcoming dates:

Mayfield Festival of Music and the Arts
Friday 26th April – 7.30pm
St Dunstan’s Church, Mayfield, TN20 6AB
Book here

Edinburgh Fringe
2-10 August – 10.35am
The Space on the Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 1TH
Book here

OSO Barnes
TBC September
OSO Arts Centre, London, SW13 0LF

Press reviews

Eerie and chilling interpretation of one of the Bard’s classics

Low Down

A sparkling gem of a show with a really innovative take on the physical and mental damage that flows from misplaced political ambition.


Macbeth’s proclivity for violence to get what he willed is a major theme of Shakespeare’s often re-worked (and much studied) tragedy.  It was therefore slightly alarming, waiting outside theSpace@Niddry Street’s spacious Upper Theatre, to hear the sounds of clashing metal, heavy breathing and a lot of shouting/grunting coming from within.  Heaven only knows what was going on in there.  It sounded dangerous.  But interesting!

And so it proved in Shadow Road Productions’ genuinely “electrifying adaptation” (to quote the show’s own PR) of what many thesps will refer to only as “The Scottish Play” such is the theatrical superstition around uttering the piece’s true title.

Shadow Road is the brainchild of founder/artistic director Emma King-Farlow.  It’s  is a small theatre company which specialises in bringing works of theatre for all ages and occasions to unusual spaces in creative new ways.  Perfect then for this, their Fringe debut where every available Edinburgh nook and cranny morphs into a performance space during three mad weeks each August.

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Macbeth and witches 5 - St Mary's
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Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 4
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Macbeth and witches 3 - St Mary's
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 1
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Macbeth bloody hands
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 2
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Macbeth and witches - St Mary's
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Witches 5 Macbeth and witches 5 - St Mary's Witches cropped Macbeth Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 4 Lady Macbeth 2 Macbeth and witches 3 - St Mary's Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 1 Witches 6 Witches 4 cropped Witches 7 Macbeth bloody hands Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 2 Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 3 Witches 3 Macbeth on throne Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 5 Macbeth and witches - St Mary's Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 7 Macbeth 2 Witch on throne

King-Farlow’s skilfully edited and staged adaptation is perfectly pitched from witchy start to blood-letting finish with the cast of four woman each playing a central role, flipping to a range of vignettes as the plot demanded.   They stick to the original text most of the time but judicious insertion of new modern language material bookends the piece as well as providing occasional and helpful plot signposts as the action unfolds.

The plot?  Well, think political ambition in overdrive and the physical and psychological damage resulting therefrom to those who seek power and to those who are subjected to it.  Just look around you if you want modern day examples.

Performed in the round, the quartet use every square inch of a blank stage with exits/entrances at each corner and work hard to ensure the audience feels involved and engaged.  Mind you, with the passion, tension and range of other emotions on display, no one’s attention is going to drift far for fear of missing something from what’s a universally strong cast.  

Amy Floyd (Macbeth) has a formidable, almost frightening stage presence, inhabiting Macbeth with gravitas and political cunning that makes Machiavelli look like a pussy cat.  Victoria Adler (First Witch, Macduff and a very engaging Doctor) differentiates her main and subsidiary characters with great skill, subtle changes in posture and voice ensuring you know just who she is playing at what point.

Emma King-Farlow (Second Witch, Lady Macbeth) is colder than a deep freeze, another one who could out-Machiavelli Machiavelli in a trice.  Brilliantly understated in this guise (she delivered the coldest “out damn spot” speech I’ve ever heard) she flipped seamlessly between this, her role as a deranged witch and a couple of other characters in a heartbeat.  Completing the cast was the very adaptable Sarah Robinson who was bumped off with surprising regularity when she wasn’t up to mischief as Third Witch or effecting most of the (simple) set changes.

There’s so much about this piece to both admire and enjoy and it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into its staging.  The witches feline movement, the swirling of their cloaks creating the impression of mist drifting across a desolate Scottish landscape.  The use of geometry to keep audience sightlines clear – triangles, diamonds, squares of performers skilfully maintained as they moved around the stage.  Costumes were simple, yet expressive.  Sound effects were vocalised or played on simple instruments by the cast.

Then there’s the tricky challenge of dealing with so many murders, particularly that of the extended Macduff clan, not to mention those of Duncan, Banquo, a few guards and other hangers on.  With only four in the cast it would have been all too easy to run out of actors, so most of the deaths occur offstage with a mix of blood curdling cries and deathly silences.  Very effective.

But they saved the best until last – the denouement between Macduff and Macbeth.  The stage tension between Floyd and Adler was electric as they circled each other like a pair of prize fighters preparing to go the distance.  Verbally it was superb, words being spat with a vehement intensity that raised hairs on the back of the neck.  Physically, it was breathtaking, sword fighting that felt real, blood that looked it.   Peerless.  And the all work of Floyd who, it appears, has been a practising martial artist from a very young age and is now a specialist fight choreographer.  Not someone to mess with, then.

This is a real sparkling gem of a show but one that’s feels like it’s hidden in plain sight even though it’s hosted by one of the Fringe’s more central and comfortable venues (full disclosure, I’ve staged many shows in it) with a 10.15am start.  Too early for you?   Come on, people!  This show would be worth getting up at any hour to go see.  They’re only running until 12 August but I’ll be making tracks for a repeat run.  Yes, it was that good.  Set your alarm clock and get down there.

Fringe Review
Tim Wilcock - Edinburgh Fringe 2023 - Published 09.08.23

Off to a great start with Macbeth: Sleep No More at @theSpaceUK. At heart a fairly conventional Macbeth, but to me it feels somehow modernised. The pace, the metre, the characterisation, all just slightly different from the (many, many) versions I’ve seen before.

Everything’s interesting and shines a new light on the text. Among a strong set of performances Lady Macbeth (Emma King-Farlow) is particularly electrifying, and the couple’s immediate grief for what they’ve destroyed really shines through.

With the all-female cast containing just four actors, they find smart solutions to the logistical challenges, while the staging is bold and sparse. The climactic fight scene is thrilling! 10:15am at Niddry St, only till Sat – stand not upon the order of your going but go at once.

The Wee Review
Richard Stamp - Edinburgh Fringe 2023 - Published 09.08.23

A fast flowing reworking, this is certainly a version well worth seeing and an interesting addition to the Macbeth canon.

A cleverly shortened and in places rewritten version of the Scottish Play which takes nothing away from its power and fascination, performed very nicely by a four female cast, in what is normally a male heavy production.

All four actresses do very well to play a screed of different characters, but none shines brighter than Victoria Adler, who is scintillating in whichever body she is inhabiting. Adler’s sword fighting scene with Amy Floyd’s Macbeth is one of the highlights of the whole show, with audience members visibly shrinking back and pulling up legs from the thrusting and whirling bodies as the contest progresses to its inevitable bloody climax.

Absolutely riveting stuff!

North West End
Greg Holstead - Edinburgh Fringe 2023 - Published 11.08.23

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3 witches Macbeths 2 Macbeth and Duncan Witches cast spell Macbeth The Macbeths Lady M sleep walking Gentlewoman Macbeth & Banquo Macbeth knighted Witches from above P1100050 - less hair grip Macbeth & LM Picture2 Picture1 P1090082 small Picture4 Picture3 Picture5

Audience reviews

Absolutely amazing! Would highly recommend to anyone who is a fan of Shakespeare. Very intimate and well thought out production. In what used to be a male dominated area, these four women played the roles amazingly and with so much talent. Will definitely go to more events in the future!
Courtney Larkin
Audience Member - No.36
What a terrific show! I am still replaying in my mind the subtle shifts that all the characters passed through as undreamt of possibilities turned into dreadful realities. The ghost at the feast scene was hugely powerful as Macbeth finally unravelled. An excellent script by Emma King-Farlow and superb performances from this cast of just four. So good to experience the power of live theatre again. Thank you all for working so hard through such restricted times to find a way bring us this magic.
Jane C.
Audience Member - No.36
Congratulations again! Excellent job by everyone - the crushed imperious Lady M, the heartbroken Macduff, the suspicious everyman Banquo and the physically and emotionally scarred Macbeth, caught up in a web of self-created torment. Amazing how 4 people can slip into all those roles so perfectly
Matt Bentley
Audience Member - No.36
Can't stop thinking about Macbeth: Sleep No More (testament to the outstanding performance). Just amazing production, acting, innovation and education. My children's review "Absolutely fabulous show!" High praise from both 13 and 15 year old (a tough crowd to please!) Seriously well done - bringing theatre to life in a hugely engaging and inspiring way.
Zoe Noonan
Audience Member - Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Excellent adaptation of the Scottish Play. The all-female cast was very impressive, especially the woman in the title role. Imaginative staging.
Randal Richmond
Audience Member - Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Fabulous production of Macbeth by Fireside Folktales. I was actually on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen 😂The final fight scene was awesome. Shame it was the last performance of the run. Can't wait to see what they'll do with A Christmas Carol later in the year.
Ruth Brandt
Audience Member - Coach & Horses
Great performers & great acting. Really enjoyed the show
Emilia, Edward & Co.
Audience Member - Southside House
An amazing performance
Angela, Matt and Sophie Goodman
Audience Member - Southside House
Great production of Macbeth in the garden this evening. So clever to adapt the script and for just four taking all the parts. It stripped the play back to its core which made the account of ambition and the cycle of violence even more powerful. Many thanks for bringing back live theatre!
James Hutchings
Audience Member - No.36
A dramatic performance that was so intimate that you felt part of the play as if you were in it. The music was so beautiful that travelled the whole room! Thank you for an amazing performance. X
Audience Member - Southside House
What a terrific performance in a wonderful setting. Congratulations!
Audience Member - Southside House
Thank you so much - we loved your performance
Nelly Munthe
Audience Member - Southside House
Fabulous show and triumphant opening! It was wonderful! So good. So many brilliant touches. Macbeth's slow descent was so good, trying to fix his position and becoming more and more brutal. I don't think I've seen that so clearly before. We have bought tickets to see it again!
Catharine & family
Audience Member - No.36
This was a most excellent performance. Well done!
Audience Member - Southside House
Many congratulations and very best wishes for the future.
Audience Member - Southside House
Beautiful show in a beautiful house
Bella Brown
Audience Member - Southside House
Great show and amazing house!
Rosoe Speed
Audience Member - Southside House
Wonderful performance. More please
Ewa Cobham
Audience Member - Southside House
That was my first time understanding Shakespeare!
Peter B.
Audience Member - No.36
What a fantastic show, we were lucky enough to catch last night's performance at the Coach & Horses. Such a lovely entertaining evening. Well done Emma, Amy, Carly and Sarah x
Dawn Guler
Audience Member - Coach & Horses
This is a great show, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Do go and see it.
Andrew Hale
Audience Member
A truly wonderful performance! I will always remember this special day.
T. Coulson
Audience Member - Southside House
Loved it!
Audience Member - Southside House
We loved the chemistry between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth! Great show!
Audience Member - The Turbine Theatre
It's so lovely to be here tonight, in this lovely garden and enjoying the best of everything. That during the pandemic we can still see live theatre, thank you very much.
Audience Member - No.36
A special evening, really brilliant
Audience Member

You might like to know…

  • The play runs for around 105 minutes.
  • It can be staged either in the open air or indoors. If indoors, it can be performed either in promenade (with the audience following the action from space to space) or end on, with the audience seated.

  • The play includes sword fighting and staged violence.
  • Macbeth would be an obvious choice for school groups, many of whom are studying the play as part of the curriculum. It would also be a particularly good choice for Shakespeare-lovers, as an introduction to someone new to Shakespeare, or for anyone looking for some original Halloween entertainment!

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