Macbeth is renowned for being a difficult play to stage and get right. This was a brave attempt at an edited and cut down version with no interval and at just over an hour and three quarters it was a little over long without an interval.
The witches were an ever present force which at times worked well, and at others merely a distraction and a hindrance to the main action. It didn’t bode well when only two of the witches actually hailed Macbeth, the first witch (Lauren-Jean Reeves) hailing off into space using some archetypal wicked witch, irritatingly nasal voice, whilst the other two witches used much more natural voices. Unfortunately her nasal tones remained throughout.
The witches were used effectively during the ‘dagger’ scene bearing the dagger and teasing Macbeth; apart from that is at the beginning when Macbeth couldn’t actually say the line ‘the handle towards my hand’ because the witch (Emma Richardson who came across as a Hammer Horror blood-lust witch) wasn’t actually holding the handle towards him!! Surely a flaw in the direction or just a piece of bad stagecraft by the witch, I suspect the latter. The point of the witches was that they used the players as puppets, but they were too much used at the back of the stage they would have been better used at the extremities of the stage, what little there was. For me the best of the witches was Ella Banks, as she engaged playfully with Fleance, the playfulness of her witch was quite charming.
The acting honours went to Cathy Bourne with a fabulous portrayal of Lady Macbeth and her ‘Out Damned Spot’ speech was a fantastic piece of drama to behold.
Richard Banks struggled a little at times with the eponymous title character and some of the speeches; however, the final soliloquy mourning the loss of his wife was a tour-de-force and beautifully delivered. These two actors had real chemistry with each other, with Lady M. obviously the power behind the throne. David Puckridge did well as Banquo, however, his lines seemed a little rushed and his diction faltered at times. However, his strength lay in his physicality of acting, as a ghost he was eerily intimidating.
The ensemble was completed with Alexandra Grist adapting well to the minor roles of Malcolm, Lady Macduff and Fleance. Chris Cole was stilted as Ross and Seyton, his Porter, however, gave a hint of the required humour. Stephen Malyon as the multi-roled Duncan, Macduff, Doctor and Murderer, battled against his physique, to try and capture different characters with a range of voices, alas not all were successful, his murderer and doctor sounding particularly strange. He struggled with the the language and delivery.
Costume was a challenge with so few actors playing many roles. This was a modern dress production, mostly it worked well, differences in characters and ranks were well established. Lady Macbeth’s red dress was stunning and helped elevate her status, I would have liked to have seen Macbeth with more obvious signs of kingship having progressed from combats to dress uniform. So over all well done to Helen Banks.
Lights and sounds mostly were very effective and the use of ‘flash’ paper for lady M’s letter and the potion worked well. Being picky I don’t think the addition of music to underpin Macbeth’s final soliloquy worked, the power of the delivery was enough.
Ultimately, I did enjoy this production, it had its flaws, yes, but the production held together and on the whole was successful. Congratulations to Rod Henderson and his team, a very creditable production.