The custom-built thirteen-sided Rose Theatre dominates the front landscape at Blenheim Palace. The internal design has been created to resemble the theatre which would have been used in Shakespeare’s time. Using this model’s idea means that nobody in the audience is more than fifteen feet away from the stage.
Part of the experience designed by Lunchbox Theatre group is a village section around the front of the theatre combining, seating areas, food, drink stands and market-style carts with information boards describing the additional sideshows venues which would have taken place during Shakespeare’s period.
The addition of a wooden carved bear in one corner of the village looks slightly out of place. Although it would have been a familiar sight in the days of Shakespeare, albeit during his time it would have been a real bear.
Chief Executive of Lunchbox Theatre, James Cundall MBE first built this style theatre in York last year. With overwhelming success, this fresh production venue for four of Shakespeare plays impressed Dominic Hare CEO of Blenheim Palace and with eleven months of planning behind them, Rose Theatre now stands proud for a season in the grounds of here as well as York for 2019. There are plans to take it abroad next year.
Macbeth press night saw the newly opened theatre crash into life through the violent and turbulent storyline of this Shakespearean tragedy which left nothing to the imagination. With the band situated above the stage, they added all the loud sound effects needed to bring this play to life.
Philippa Vafadari’s choreography and Jonathan Holby’s fight direction combined perfectly into bringing to the stage fast-moving realistic battle scenes, bloody beheadings and plenty of bloodsheds. Although you know Macbeth is an extremely violent play you still take a sharp intake of breath at certain points for example when you watch Macduff’s family slaughtered and blood squirts across the wooden floor.
Suzy Cooper’s role as Lady Macbeth is one of the best adaptations I have seen. As she takes on her role as Queen next to her husband Macbeth played by Alex Avery.
Her role in the sleepwalking scene was convincing the blank expression wore by anyone in that trance gave you a sense of realism. Her ability to bring Lady Macbeth the strength and conviction this role deserves was delivered in abundance.
Each costume wore by every member of the cast was finished in detail. Along with the masks worn by the three witches to depict forest creatures. The battle armour chain mail looked authentic on the soldiers to an untrained eye. Associate costume designer Sarah Mercade has created a memorable costume wardrobe for this production.
The way in which these theatres were originally designed means the whole lower tier is used throughout the play. The stage is the main focus, using every window or door area at some point during the play. However, the audience’s standing area is also used by many of the cast.
Hiding behind audience members and interacting with them at various points. This style of immersive theatre keeps the whole theatre engaged as you never know where someone will appear from next.
Paul Hawkyard’s portrayal of Macduff leaves you speechless at times. His delivery and presence on the stage as a soldier is worth going to see the play for this character alone.
The son of Macduff played by Louis Madin-Cooper gave a very strong performance alongside his mother Lady Macduff, Ellie Burrow as they discussed his father’s departure and what was to become of their future. Sadly their fate arrives sooner than they expected.
The script has been edited to become more accessible to a wider audience. The essence of Shakespeare is still prominent, by adjusting the language into plainer English allows the play to become easier to follow. The cast were all clear and concise it removed the period of time often needed watching a Shakespeare play when you adjust your ear for the language.
Director Damian Cruden and his highly talented team and cast have created one of the best versions of Macbeth I have seen.
Running from the 8th July to 7th September 2019. If tonight’s gala performance is anything to go by as the actors become more versed with their characters it’s going to be a season of fantastic Shakespeare.
Review by Elaine Chapman
The York season of SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE will run from Tuesday 25 June – Sunday 1 September 2019, with Hamlet, Henry V, The Tempest and Twelfth Night, and the Blenheim Palace season will run from Monday 8 July – Saturday 7 September 2019 with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet and Richard III.
Making up the 19-strong Macbeth/A Midsummer Night’s Dream company at Blenheim Palace are Nana Amoo-Gottfried (Ross & Lysander), Alex Avery (Macbeth & Snug), Ellie Burrow (Lady Macduff/Young Siward & Fairy Queen/Peaseblossom), Charlie Cameron (Witch 3/Murderer 2/Scottish Doctor & Puck), Christopher Chilton (Witch 1/Murderer 1/Messenger & Snout/Fairy), Suzy Cooper (Lady Macbeth & Peter Quince), Claire Cordier
(Hecate/Gentlewoman/Messenger/Seyton & Hippolyta/Oberon), Maria Gray (Donalbain/Witch 2/Murderer 3 & First Fairy/Cobweb), Paul Hawkyard (Macduff & Bottom), Adam Kane (Malcolm & Fairy), Tom Kanji (Old Man/Siward/Apparition 3 & Theseus/Titania), Mark Peachey (Banquo & Demetrius), Shane Quigley Murphy (Lennox & Starveling/Fairy/Moth), Adam Slynn (Captain/Apparition 2/Servant & Philostrate/Mustardseed/Fairy King), Paul Stonehouse (Duncan/Porter/English Doctor & Egeus/Fairy), Toby Vaughan (Swing/Cover & Flute/Fairy), Elexi Walker (Angus/Lord/Messenger & Helena), Jenny Wall (Apparition 3 & Fairy), and Francesca Zoutwelle (Apparition 1/Menteith & Hermia).
Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre
8th July – 7th September
Europe’s first-ever pop up Shakespearean theatre is at Blenheim Palace.