The Peoples Theatre
4th March 2014
The stage is set - stark, industrial, understated and perfect. The only colour coming from the streak of blue sky behind the castle ramparts, a sign of hope at the beginning of this dark play. (It won't last long, keep an eye on the sky as the play progresses). Faint haze and low music add to the atmosphere. Tension from the start. And then a sudden blinding flash of lightning, an earsplitting crash of thunder and an army is charging towards the audience, pikes and swords raised, a battle cry roars and so it begins.
There is so much that could be said about this production - from the costumes, (military khakis, bowns and greys, of the soldiers, the black and red garb of the truly maniacal witches, and the starkly contrasting bright colours of MacDuff's wife and children), to the lighting and music, haunting, rousing, the sung incantations of the weird sisters, reminding me of sung cantata's from my church choir days, eerily interspersed with whispered lines from the key speeches as scenes changed. It is utterly gripping. And this before I start on the characters!
This play has a large cast - even allowing for those actors who doubled up and they all acted their hearts out. The witches Sara Harrison Dowd, Penny Lamport and Anne Cater, are brilliantly and scarily weird, with their wild hair and makeup, singing their incantations and staring mutely when directly questioned. Sara Scott as Lady Macbeth nails the ambitious, driven wife, pushing her husband on against his better nature, and then realising too late the cost. The "damned spot" speech is almost torturous to watch. Craig Fairbairn plays Banquo beautifully, showing a loving father and loyal friend, more puzzled than suspicious of Macbeth as his lord begins the descent into tyranny.
The star is undoubtedly Jonny Lavelle as Macbeth. His portrayal of the ambitious tortured man, set on a path of destruction that once started he is unable to stop, is gripping. His delivery in each scene was virtually flawless, as his character see-saws through every emotion, naked ambition, determination and doubt, remorse and resolve and finally madness. You will believe he sees his murdered friend seated on that empty stool.
One final mention for Ricky Shah - who I saw recently in a very different role in Charley's Aunt, - who plays 3 parts here, but in particular the darkly humourous Porter, who's grim humour does little to ease the tension, if anything it increases it, as the audience are all too aware of the horror that is about to be revealed once he answers the knocking at the gate.
I don't often give a score and even more rarely give a 5 out of 5 but this production gets one! I mentioned the tension? At the end of the play I found I had been so tense while watching it I actually ached!
Macbeth runs till Saturday 8th March. Go and see it!