I haven’t said hello to Macbeth since I was at school, so I’m not sure what my expectations were, but The Mercury Theatre certainly know how to deliver an excellent in-house gutsy, fast-paced production.
The staging was simplistic, yet the 3-level effect enabled the audience to be easily drawn to focus on the sensitivity of the scene, depending on which of the three levels it was set on. The movement direction (Matthew Cullum – Twelve Angry Men, The Butterfly Lion) was very effective. The lighting and sound design (David W Kidd – lighting design, John Chambers – composer, sound design) complemented one another with the impact in all the right places, it had the desired effect.
The many deaths that Macbeth was responsible for was symbolised by one face lighting up one by one, adding to his portrayed sense of madness. The scene preset to a stunning wash of colour, creating a calm and sense of peace, to be broken with Banquo’s apparition appearing and disappearing, later catching the bubbling sounds and sense of a light-hearted party behind the door of the house, with the sinister mood in front of the door counteracting it, revealed for seconds each time the door was opened.
Set in the times of political unrest of which we know so much from history, I did struggle with the way the play had been modernised; as with Othello at The National Theatre, the cast were dressed as modern day soldiers yet there was no obvious relation to current troubles to form a distinct picture associating them to the setting of Scotland for where it was written. Having said that, the text was presented as such that it was easily understood, and would be so universally, and was delivered with mostly excellent intonation. However, for me, the famous’ tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech was lost in the interpretation and modernisation.
My favourite witch, was number 2 – Rachel Donovan who is no stranger to Shakespeare and has a long list of theatre credits. She stood out from the trio, not because she was better, but because she was different with her golden hair and stage presence, I felt compelled to focus on her haunting performance in particular.
In all Shakespeare productions we seem to have an ‘old man’ and this time he was presented to us brilliantly by Moray Treadwell. It is always a delight to see actors such as he, tread our boards.
The standout performance for me was without question Nicholas Bailey in the role of Macduff. The resonance of his voice and ability to deliver Shakespeare in the way in which we assume it was intended, yet still cross over seamlessly into the modernised direction of this version of Macbeth. He was the one character that I felt empathy for. I would have loved to have seen him tackle the role of Macbeth. Instead he murdered him; well you can’t have everything!
I have to say hats off to the little boy who played Fleance and apparitions in Daniel Buckroyd’s production; I am assuming that on press night it was Alec D’Arcy Jones. It is an intense and violent piece of theatre to be a part of at such a young age, and as a lady said on the way out of the theatre to Alec’s dad, “he died very well”.
This was my first visit here and one can see from the front desk all the way to the performance, why The Mercury Theatre is so successful at in-house productions; efficient, pleasant, welcoming and professional. I will be back. If you get the chance to catch this production of Macbeth, it’s worth the trip.
Review by Nadia Ellerton
Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth returns to the Mercury Theatre Colchester this October in a chilling new production starring Stuart Laing and Esther Hall.
Opening on Thursday, October 2 and running until Saturday, October 18, Macbeth is Shakespeare’s ultimate exploration of political ambition and the extraordinary lengths to which one couple will go to secure their place in history.
This striking new production directed by the Mercury Theatre’s Artistic Director Daniel Buckroyd will grip audiences from its first moments to the last fulfilment of the witches’ prophecy. Buckroyd’s setting echo’s current political unrest, and will closely explore how the loss of a child powers the heart of the story. To emphasise the continual presence of children in the events, one child actor will play the role of all of the children in the story.
Juliet Shillingford’s stark design shears out into the auditorium over the top of the first row of seats, creating an intimate connection between the audience and the action.
Taking on the role of the ruthless Macbeth is Stuart Laing. Stuart’s theatre credits include A Streetcar Named Desire at Theatre Clwyd, Over Hear at Bristol Old Vic, and the UK tour of The Furies/Land of The Dead.
Nicholas Bailey as Macduff
Gareth Bennett-Ryan as Donalbain, Murderer, Young Seyward
Noa Bodner as Witch 3 and Seyton
David Carr as Ross
Rachel Donovan as Witch 2 and Gentlewoman
Esther Hall as Lady Macbeth
Stuart Laing as Macbeth
Simon Ludders as Banquo
Gary Mackay as Lennox
James Marlowe as Malcom and Lord
Christopher Price as Sergeant, Porter, Murderer and Menteth
Georgina Sutton as Witch 1 and Lady Macduff
Moray Treadwell as Duncan, Old Man and Doctor
Director; Daniel Buckroyd
Designer: Juliet Shillingford
Movement Director: Matthew Cullum
Composer/Sound Designer: John Chambers
Lighting Designer: David W Kidd
Assistant Sound Designer: Ash Pickard
Casting Director: Marc Frankum
Balkerne Gate, Colchester CO1 1PT
2nd – 18th October 2014
Wednesday 8th October 2014