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Lazarus Theatre Company’s Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre | Review

Alice Emery MACBETH 2020 Lazarus Theatre Company Photographer Adam Trigg.
Alice Emery MACBETH 2020 Lazarus Theatre Company Photographer Adam Trigg.

This isn’t the first Lazarus Theatre Company production to go for lots of shiny confetti, stage debris and, well, partial nudity. This time around the debris took the form of many, many sheets of white paper that ended up strewn across the entire stage, seemingly indicative of chaos and disorder. It is rather too unkind, however, to portray this is a metaphor for the production itself, even if the delivery of Shakespeare’s script doesn’t quite match the stunning visual effects.

A conscious decision has been made to depart from the clear (and in some cases, borderline overkill) enunciation of lines, which works well when characters display the subtlety of private conversation, for instance, but less so when a more ‘traditional’ production would have greater force and dynamism on display. It doesn’t help, either, that there is occasional speaking upstage going on – there were microphones on stage, but these were only used sporadically. And I still can’t work out why, even in a modern resetting (the characters are dressed in shirts and ties), there were three telephones on stage, particularly as nobody ever picked up any of them.

Interestingly, proceedings begin with the coronation of Duncan (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) and end with Malcolm (Fred Thomas) being crowned, and at the appropriate moment, there is yet another coronation, this time of Macbeth (Jamie O’Neill). Each one is strikingly similar, though each time the new king displays very different behaviours: Duncan’s formal and dignified outlook, Macbeth’s confident – perhaps even arrogant – swagger, and Malcolm’s humility and palpable trepidation as he realises the enormity of the task ahead of him.

There are things missing – a blackout cuts out what would otherwise have been a fight scene, and Macbeth’s head isn’t brought out in the closing moments of the play as one would reasonably expect. That isn’t to say there aren’t generous amounts of fake blood (there are). But a couple of staging decisions were a tad bizarre. It is one thing to have the banquet (Act III Scene IV) upstage, but it is another to have so much stage haze such that making out individual characters is an exercise in futility. Those of us old enough to remember smoking rooms in office buildings will understand the comparison. What I was able to decipher were a couple of characters sat at the banquet table with their backs to the audience, which is, I suppose, more realistic than Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting, where everyone sits (or stands) on the same side.

The witches of the play are replaced instead by ‘weird sisters’, played by men (David Clayton, Cameron Nelson and Hamish Somers), weird enough to don gas masks at the start of the second half, which as far as I could deduce didn’t in itself add anything either way to the narrative, and if anything made working out what they were saying more difficult. It is a young and vibrant cast, but the production may have benefited from having a greater age range overall – I felt like I was watching one of those summer showcases starring final year students on an acting degree course.

Alice Emery’s Lady Macbeth steals the show in this production, oozing with confidence and assertiveness, demonstrating who really is in control though it’s her husband that officially wears the crown. There was also a (plot-related) slight smell of burning at one point, adding another dimension to the production that has the potential to be more widely explored in theatre overall. The industry is some way off (to say the least) from having ‘best smell design’ awards to go along with those for lighting and sound. It’s an example of the kind of boundaries that Lazarus Theatre Company continue to push, and while not all of the ideas brought to life in this production are agreeable, this bold and briskly paced show makes for a decent night out.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

When shall we three meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain?
Victorious from a bloody battle the triumphant Macbeth is greeted by the three weird sisters. Inspired and driven by their incredible prophecies he sets out on the path to conquer all. A story of ambition, leadership and belief.

Shakespeare’s supernatural Macbeth bursts on to the stage in this epic new ensemble production and features as the first production in Lazarus’ third year as associate artists at Greenwich Theatre.

Cameron Nelson – Weird Sister / Donalbain / Doctor
David Clayton – Weird Sister / Macduff
Darcy Willison – Angus / Lady Macduff
Fred Thomas – Malcolm / Apparition
Hamish Somers – Captain / Weird Sister / Lennox
Jamie O’Neill – Macbeth
Lewis Davidson – Banquo / Apparition
Luke Ward-Wilkinson – Duncan / Apparition
Mikko Juan – Ross / Messenger / Doctor
Alice Emery – Lady Macbeth

Written by William Shakespeare
Adapted, Directed and Designed by Ricky Dukes
Lighting Design by Alex Musgrave
Sound Design by Phil Matejtschuk
Costume by Sorcha Corcoran
Dramaturge – Sophie Duntley
Stage Manager – Juliette Green
Assistant Director – Lata Nobes
Movement Captain – David Clayton
Company Photographer – Adam Trigg
Production Graphic Designer – Bobby Bowyer
Producer – Gavin Harrington-Odedra

26 FEB – 7 MAR 2020


1 thought on “Lazarus Theatre Company’s Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre | Review”

  1. This is a brisk and rhythmic run through Shakespeare’s tale of murderous ambition and regret which at just under two hours delivers a sparse and gleaning rendition brimming with nerve.

    An unadorned stage replete with fixtures greets us lending immediacy to courtiers stepping in unison at Duncan’s coronation and counting in an at times dance-like pace that continues throughout. Here, confetti and scattered paper serve as the only celebratory tools with which Lazarus parades an almost street pattering of dialogue delivered at rollercoaster speed. Duncan’s comic excitable asides alongside Macbeth’s broken and tentative questions play amidst a manic interplay of torchlight and darkness propelling the production on towards its bloody core.

    At the centre of the storm calm emanates as at the flick of a switch Lady Macbeth swoons across a stage daubed in black emboldening Macbeth’s lethal intent. Once irretrievably cast the play picks up speed with courtiers again walking to the beat of the duplicitous king’s inauguration. To impress on us how Scotland’s new royals faulter and are haunted by their act the production adopts an almost filmic behaviour. A dead Duncan crowns his usurper while bloody Banquo lingers in the shadows. An electric tube light buzzes and traps in its glare the post-coronation celebration while bodies serve as trees in a storm entangling Macbeth and evoking some search for a way away from his troubles. Reconciliation is alluded to with the executed Macbeth crowning Malcolm and in her turn Lady Macbeth and past fallen lingering in the background.

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