In theatrical circles ‘The Scottish Play’ is one that is steeped in superstition and ever cautiously mentioned by name. With that in mind, if you’re going to perform Macbeth (there I said it!), you need to do it justice and The AC Group certainly do!
One of Shakespeare’s darker plays, it is thought that the story of Lord and Lady Macbeth was first performed at Hampton Court Palace in 1606. A timeless piece, its themes of ambition, betrayal, patriotism and greed continue to resonate with modern audiences as strongly as they did in The Bard’s day.
Directed by Thomas Attwood and playing at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, the production embraces the insidious darkness of the script and demonstrates a strong and almost tangible artistic vision. The use of soundscape, coupled with a simple yet minimalist set, is eerie and unsettling and creates the ideal atmosphere within which to unfold the narrative.
The use of live instrumentation and abstract movement is a brave choice, but one that pays off. While the inclusion of violins and recorders is not unusual for a Shakespearean piece, the emergence of the saxophone was somewhat unexpected! That said – it worked! Choreography by Roman Berry furthers the unsettling feeling within the piece and is beautifully executed by the cast.
A small company for a play of this size, many of the performers demonstrate their versatility by moving between roles. Unfortunately, at times the delineations between characters are unclear and quite confusing. This could perhaps be mitigated through greater attention to wardrobe or through the casting of a larger company in future productions.
Of the notable performances, Gabrielle Nellis-Pain gave an excellent portrayal, demonstrating a truthful sincerity as Malcolm and effortlessly transitioning to eccentric ‘weird sister’. Her exchange with Nell Hardy’s Macduff carries a wealth of humility and emotion. Hardy’s and Nellis-Pain’s depictions complemented each other perfectly, and indeed one of my favourite moments was Hardy’s sincere delivery of the line “I will, but I must also feel it like a man” in response to Malcolm’s reference to her grief.
The standout performance of the evening comes from William Ross-Fawcett in the title role of Macbeth. His commitment to character is flawless and the cascade of emotion he brings to the role is phenomenal. Undeniably ‘quiet’ in instances where introversion or introspection is required, and paradoxically manic in moments that follow, his focus is unwavering. Also unwavering is the chemistry between Macbeth and his queen, played by Amelia Clay. The two are diabolically suited and bring to the stage a passion and tension that is almost too much to take! A more perfectly matched Lord and Lady would be hard to find!
An eclectic take on a dark and twisted tale, AC Group’s Macbeth is full of promise for the run ahead and likewise, for many of the young performers who headline the cast.
Review by Cassandra Griffin
Something wicked this way comes.
On a barren heath, three sisters tell an ambitious Scottish Lord he is destined to be King. Alongside his ruthless wife, the pair are seduced by the promise of power. But their fortune is ill-fated.
As murder follows murder, Macbeth will stop at nothing to retain his crown.
The AC Group return to the Jack Studio Theatre following their five-star production of Side By Side By Sondheim. This intense and visceral production, featuring live original music, sheds new light on one of Shakespeare’s most brutal and poetic plays.
Macbeth Listings Information
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH