by William Shakespeare.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To 17 March 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Tue 10.30am 8 March 1.30pm (other matinees sold out).
Audio-described 15 March.
Captioned 14 March.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 February.
Secret, black and over well before midnight.
Nowadays, Macbeth’s witches, like the Good and Bad Angels in Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, are often viewed as representing the chief character’s internal struggles. But Demons and Fairies were just around the corner in Elizabethan England. Witches were still to be executed. David Thacker’s Macbeth combines internal and external senses in the prophetic entities’ strange reality, enforced by the antique spelling ‘Weyard Sisters’ and by providing them with further roles in Macbeth’s life.
So all occasions seem to inform against him, whether because fate has him stitched-up with these characters’ aid, or because, Scot though he was, Macbeth didn’t have Gordon Brown to blame, and saw others, their actions and their news, as conspiring against him.
In the compact, dark space of designer James Cotterill’s set, surrounded by walls of audience, the masked, black-robed figures of the Sisters (of both sexes, or if your prefer, sexless and denatured), circle the stage, lit only by hellfire from below, or attack Macbeth’s mind from the auditorium steps; as do their human forms, the inhabitants of his castle. It’s an intriguing variant on Macbeth’s point about not looking to have friends – something that’s been presented on screen as either the deserted courtyard of Roman Polanski’s film, or the crowded throng turning their weapons on their chief in Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood.
Thacker’s device separates the darkness of Dunsinane from the rest of human life. But, while Robert Cavanah’s Macbeth charts the Thane’s destruction efficiently, those around never seem to mesh. It’s a shame in the case of Suzan Sylvester’s Lady Macbeth, which shows a change from confidence to anxiety, then madness in detail. But Sylvester seems – well, too nice, too polite and considerate in her voice, for the character. Similarly, there’s the usual rich vocal work from Russell Dixon, whose Porter, if not very funny (they never are), catches an apt disenchantment, but whose richly curling tones make him too individual as a masked Sister.
And, for once, Thacker’s direction can seem half-hearted, with brevity skating over important detail. At best, his Octagon productions are astounding and stimulating. But this one isn’t.
Weyard Sister (Seyton)/Donalbain: Iestwyn Arwel.
Malcolm: Drew Carter-Cain.
Macbeth: Robert Cavanah.
Banquo/Murderer/Siward: Colin Connor.
Weyard Sister (Porter, Doctor)/Duncan: Russell Dixon.
Ross/Murderer: Ted Holden.
Lennox/Murderer: David MacCreedy.
Macduff/Wounded Sergeant: Jack Sandle.
Weyard Sister (Gentlewoman)/Lady Macduff: Georgina Strawson.
Lady Macbeth: Suzan Sylvester.
Fleance: Shahrukh Arif/Kieron Tempest.
Young Siward: Liam Christie/Morgan Jagger.
Young Macduff: Dylan Reece Booth/Jacob Brierley/Kenyon Garrish/James Robbins/Samuel Thompson.
Director: David Thacker.
Designer: James Cotterill.
Lighting: Ciaran Bagnall.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Movement: Lesley Hutchison.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Amanda Collins.