MACBETH OF FIRE AND ICE
by William Shakespeare.
Arcola Theatre 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 16 November 2013.
Mon–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 503 1646.
Review: William Russell 4 November.
A triumphant Scottish Play.
Macbeth has been cut to the bone by director Jon Gun Thor, with dazzling results. An Icelander, he has set his version in the context of Nordic myths, although apart from the three sisters spinning webs of fate on a spinning wheel rather than sitting round a cauldron, the links with Icelandic sagas and Norse gods like Thor and Odin really don’t matter much.
The concept is undeniably fresh and intriguing, but ultimately the play’s the thing. Thor’s concept does not distort, but enhances, the play. The result is as exciting a staging of Macbeth, for me, as the legendary Trevor Nunn 1979 production with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. I have sat through some good productions and sleep-inducing, ill-judged ones, but this has that special frisson which only good theatre possesses.
The Macbeths – Mark Ebulue and Molly Gormadzki – may not quite match McKellen and Dench, but they are very good indeed and get fine support from the other four cast members. Only Mark Ebulue plays one part, and for once the doubling and tripling of roles works to the benefit of the play, creating a claustrophobic world of muscle-bound, violent men.
Molly Gromadzki not only plays Lady Macbeth, but is one of the three Weird Sisters and Hecate, making the Lady appear very much the architect of her husband’s doom.
It is also a very physical production with brilliantly choreographed fights among the five men, a truly stomach-churning representation of the murders of the Macduff family, and the appearance of a blood-drenched Banquo which is actually quite terrifying.
Mark Ebulue has a strong stage presence, delivers Macbeth’s set piece soliloquies beautifully, and his disintegration from a man mad for power to a crazed warrior fighting his last hopeless battle is painful to watch.
Molly Gromadzki is perhaps less successful as the woman behind the murder of Malcolm, but she comes into her own as the play hurtles along and her sleepwalking scene is very powerful indeed.
But this is a director’s evening and the director has been faithful to the play while imposing his own view upon it.
Macbeth: Mark Ebulue.
Lady Macbeth/1st Witch – Present/Hecate: Molly Gromadzki.
Banquo/Ross: Joseph Macnab.
2nd Witch – Past/Malcolm/Thane of Cawdor/Fleance: Ben Syder.
Duncan/Old Man/Doctor: Harry Napier.
3rd Witch – Future/Macduff: Alex Britton.
Director: Jon Gun Thor.
Designer: Sara Hjordis Blondal.
Musical Director: Harry Napier.
Movement: Hannes Thor Egilsson.