By William Shakespeare
abridged by Moira Buffini
The Garrick Theatre, 2Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0HH to 7 December 2018 at 2pm on 29 November & 2, 4, 6 & 7 December.
Runs 1 hr 40 mins. No interval.
TICKETS: 0330 333 4811.
Review: William Russell 23 November
National Youth Theatre shows its skills
Moira Buffini has done a good job of cutting the play down to size and his gender fluid production has been directed with style by Natasha Nixon, although gender fluidity really results in making nonsense of the play. Having a woman play Macbeth is fine, but since what happens after the murder of Duncan depends on Macbeth doing his utmost to prevent Banquo’s heirs from succeeding him it means that he dynastic imperative that drives him on disappears. The Macbeths can have no heirs so, although he is doing what all medieval rulers did and disposing of possible contenders, the reason for doing so vanishes. Duncan being played by a woman is fine. A Queen could be a ruler.
But the casting of Macbeth does not, as they like to think, assert that women can be warriors or tyrants – it merely makes one watch an actor (female) struggling to rise to the occasion. Olivia Dowd makes a bold enough stab at it, but apart from a superbly choreographed fight to the death with Macduff, an impressive Oseloka Obi, she comes across as a rather bossy head prefect and there is no chemistry with Lady Macbeth, Isabel Adomakoh somewhat overwhelmed by the role. They are, after all, partners in crime and she at first is the one in control. There is also perhaps too much standing centre stage and addressing the audience directly by all concerned.
As a show case for the talents of the National Youth Theatre’s rep it is well worth catching, but the gender fluid approach really is misconceived. Colour blind casting is something else. One can also change the sex of a role so that an actor (female) can play it as Tamsin Greig did with a superb Malvolia, or, by simply ignoring the chcracter’s sex altogether and simply “being”, as Glenda Jackson did with Lear or everyone can be an actor (female). But here it distracts from the work of the cast and effectively undermines the showcase nature of these performances. In other words I am ranting about gender fluidity instead of assessing the players and production.
What stands out, and it is partly due to Buffini’s revisions, are the witches, a trio of hags straight out of some Kurosawa movie very well performed by Aidan Cheng, Jeffrey Sangalang and Simran Hunjun, creatures manifestly from another world who keep re-appearing. They dominate the play throughout and also play the murderers hired by Macbeth to powerful effect. All that said it stands comparison with the other Macbeths of the year.
Lady Macbeth: Isabel Adomakoh.
Banquo/Seyton: Jamie Ankrah.
First witch/Murderer: Aidan Cheng.
Macbeth: Olivia Dowd.
Captain/Child of Macduff/ Young Siward: Fred Hughes-Stanton.
Third Witch/ Murderer: Simran Hunjun.
Lennox: Muhammed Abubakar Khan.
Duncan,/First apparition/ Doctor: Marilyn Ninadebe.
Ross: Jay Mailer.
Porter/ Angus: Leah Mains.
Macduff/Third apparition: Oseloka Obi.
Fleance/Attendant, Gentlewoman: Laurie Ogden.
Lady Macduff/Siward/Attendant: Francesa Regis.
Second Witch/Murderer: Jeffrey Sandalang.
Donalbain/Messenger/Servant: Alice Vilanculo.
Malcolm: Christopher Williams.
Director: Natasha Nixon.
Designer: Mayou Trikerioti.
Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim.
Lighting Designer: Derek Anderson.
Movement Director: Belinda Chapman.
Fight Director: Kate Waters.
Voice Coach: Rebecca Cuthbertson.