A black stage with two men standing motionless in alcoves and an illuminated red bucket over them. This was the sight that greeted the audience at the Lost Theatre as they took their seats for “Macbeth”.
As the lights went down, the three witches (Evangeline Beaven, Nathalie Codsi & Caroline Charles) entered and, using a combination of small red boxes and a large table, set the scene. Moving the motionless men onto the stage, they positioned them and then brought them to life. So now, on the throne sat Duncan (Jonathan Curry) King of Scotland and beside him his Heir Apparent, Malcolm (Stu Mansell) discussing the war raging in Duncan’s kingdom against the allied forces of Norway and Italy and the victory of General Macbeth (Andrew Venning), Thane of Glamis. Macbeth himself though has – as they ordained it – met the three witches who make promises to him of a bright future leading to the point when he will become King of Scotland. Interested to know his own fate is Macbeth’s friend and fellow General Banquo (Lawrence Boothman) and the witches inform him that though he won’t be a king, he will father a line of kings – news that is slightly concerning to Macbeth, to say the least. The story follows Macbeth’s manoeuvring spurred on by his power hungry wife (Carmelai Brown), to take the throne from Duncan and the repercussions to them and to Scotland of the change in Regency.
Personally I think it must be very difficult to put Shakespeare on the stage these days. Most of the audience will have seen a version of the particular play at least once (this was my third Macbeth in a year) and will often end up comparing the latest with the one they saw at the Globe or at a local am-dram theatre, etc. However, without going down the comparison route, I did like this production of an old and trusted favourite.
Director/Designer David Shopland has resisted the temptation to over-complicate the set – those little red boxes and the table are all that used for the various locations – and the costumes. A simple sash designates the king and really rather creepy silver masks are used for the various apparitions. I especially liked the witches who were used very effectively to set the stage and also to place the characters at the start of the first and second acts – a wonderful directional nod to the purpose of the witches in the story itself. The three ladies really seemed to do everything with glee, providing some much needed humour to this darkly tragic tale. However, to my mind, the best piece of writing and direction occurred just after the horrific events of Duncan’s murder.
Silence reigned in the castle with only the Macbeth’s awake washing the blood off their hands while everyone else slept. That is until visitors arrived at the castle’s entrance demanding to be let in causing the porter (Tony Eccles) to be woken from his drunken slumber and, after stumbling through the theatre, letting them in with a truly wonderful monologue about the effects of alcohol on the average man. Shakespeare’s writing at its best, providing fabulous humour in the period between murder and discovery expertly delivered in a non over-the-top manner.
Andrew Venning played Macbeth extremely well. A man with temptation put in front of him, let’s be honest, not just temptation but a ruddy exciting prophecy and who can resist one of those, and with a wife often denigrating his manliness as she pushes him to risk all to become King. Often alone on the stage soliloquizing with himself but also, and this I really did like, with the audience as though we were a part of him and could assist him in allaying his conscience in the pursuit of his dreams. His reactions to seeing the apparition at the feast were authentic and his pushing aside of his wife was cold enough to make me almost feel sorry for Lady M and understand her descent into madness.
My one negative with this production was that at times, the dialogue was amazingly fast so that words jumbled into each other. Interestingly enough I didn’t notice this so much – I was after all familiar with the play – but my companion who had neither read nor seen “Macbeth” before did have some issues with following the script. But, all in all this was a good telling of “The Scottish Play” delivered by a talented and crafted cast to an appreciative and very well entertained audience.
Review by Terry Eastham
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES…
For centuries, The Scottish Play has proved to be one of the most popular of Shakespeare’s tragedies. A cautionary tale of ambition and madness, Macbeth is a story filled with sex, magic, violence and death that has set alight the imaginations of millions of theatregoers across the globe. The classic story of free will versus fate has been played out in many different concepts, but this production aims to take the text back to its roots in a minimal and brutal adaptation.
David Shopland’s Macbeth is a sparse and gripping view of the play through the eyes of a grieving couple. This is a rare solo departure from visionary Creative Director of Blind Tiger Theatre, who has previously directed An Idle World in the West End at Trafalgar Studios and The Little Mermaid at Riverside Studios
This is not a story about war and witches, but the heartbreaking destruction of a marriage. It is a 400 year old domestic drama that highlights the same base emotions we all feel throughout our lives. This play’s horror lies in its humanity.
MACBETH by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Shopland
Dates: 10th February 2015 – 1st March 2015
Times: 7.30pm (Tuesdays – Saturdays), 2.30pm (Saturdays), 5pm (Sundays)
Tickets: Full £12 / Concession £10
(Booking fees apply: online up to 9%. Telephone 5%)
Box Office: 0207 720 6897
Friday 13th February 2015