I once saw a memorable Macbeth where the three witches were portrayed as The Marx Brothers - a surreal, yet unforgettable interpretation.

Now a re-imagining of the English Touring Theatre's co--production sees the trio depicted as wrongly accused victims from the ducking-stool trials era while two Puritan judges pontificate about their fate.

This striking opening flashback certainly stirs the creative cauldron for a spell-binding, well-paced drama packed full of supernatural comings and goings.

We are then brought up to modern times where the witches' presence is felt - if not seen until a nightmare sequence resembling a Hitchcock meets Stephen King scenario unravels.

Directed by Richard Tywman, this two-and-a-half-hour production grips you from the start and never lets go until the violent end.

So many intriguing storytelling techniques are delivered from a versatile ten-strong cast.

We watch the self-destruction of the Macbeth couple - some of it on camcorder footage relayed on two projection screens.

Heroic soldier Macbeth is back from the war and he seems, at first, a softly-spoken engaging fellow until greed and guilt cloud his blood-soaked ambition and tyrannical style of politics.

He is aided by his ambitious sultry wife who knows how to throw a good party.

Mike Noble and Louise Elsworthy have strong chemistry from the outset as the besotted-by-power pairing.

An end-of-first-half romantic song sequence is perfectly pitched and gives the audience the chance for an interval breather.

A bagpipe player introduces the second half which also proves to be breath-taking ... for the player.

Surprises abound in this vibrant version with a Burns Night party involving some haggis and brief interaction with members of the audience.

There is a very powerful ghost scene too - using the screen for maximum effect.

One intriguing inclusion, however, still has me baffled - a rendition of the disco classic Yes, Sir, I Can Boogie sang - karaoke style - by King Duncan's son Malcolm ( Jasmine Elcock).

Well, it beats the lute.

A ferocious combat sequence between Macbeth and Macduff (Guy Rhys) is very convincing and the sound effects add to the grim realism.

Full credit to fight director Kevin McCurdy for pulling no punches.

So here is a Macbeth that tells the timeless tale with an exceptional exploration of what makes the world tick.

I never thought I'd ever say it in a review, but this Macbeth - from the 30-year-old inspirational ETT - is a joy ... a delightfully dark joy, that is.

Verdict: Wickedly Clever

The production is on until September 23 and touring until February 24.

Details here