Macbeth

Mon 31st October – Tue 1st November 2011

reviews

Fiona Kao

at 00:32 on 1st Nov 2011

1agrees

0disagrees

From the beginning, the play grips the audience with its sound effects and lighting. The set is simple: an eerie moon overlooking the stage, a fence of stony planks in the background with lightning bolt cracks that light up in evil red, and several stools of wooden blocks with differing heights to enable vertical movements on stage. Each witch has her own peculiar cackle and demeanor, and the audience glimpses the hidden world of the black arts. The change from scene to scene is efficient though not fully executed by the actors—the three witches throw off their russet cloaks, transformed into Scottish thanes, and the story flows on, though the audience’s mind is left behind. The performance has a cast of only seven actors, meaning some must take on as many as five roles.

Lady Macbeth, played by Sophie Brooke, the same actress that plays one of the witches, expertly fuses the two characters. As she reads Macbeth’s letter, she contemplates murderous thoughts and calls upon the spirits to assist her. Her twisted figure along with her twisted mind denote that of a witch. At the same time, the silhouette of a raven appears before the ominous moon. The audience’s eyes often flick to the moon as it at times has blood draped over it, at times becomes an eclipse, and at times turns blood red. Lady Macbeth retains her witch-like qualities throughout the play; as she persuades her husband to murder the king, her hands retracted into claws and her sweet words became as soothing as a serpent.

Macbeth, played by Joel Gorf, is equally riveting. One of the greatest difficulties in playing Macbeth is depicting him not just as a base villain but a valiant hero caught in the snares of his own ambition and his wife’s emasculating remarks, and Joel Gorf has played the villain hero magnificently. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are rivals and equals, their interaction tense and lustful like a dance move. However, the witches slithering in the background in many of the scenes in the first half, not found in the original Shakespeare, poses the question of whether Macbeth ever had the chance to fight the prophecies. The witches are out of sight but not out of mind in the second half, and Macbeth, Macduff, and Malcolm are left to fight their human battles.

The props are used creatively, which allows a rapid change of scenes. For example, the red curtain drawn sideways with four swords poked downwards function as the banquet table, and Banquo, killed in the previous scene and hidden behind a chair, conveniently appears as a ghost in the banquet scene. If only there were more actors so that the characters were more distinguishable or the costumes more strongly memorable (the killers, with their cloaks, looked oddly similar to the witches). Yet this is just a glitch compared to the powerful characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The play, overall, is enjoyably chilling.

agree
disagree

Anna Brown

at 08:54 on 1st Nov 2011

0agrees

0disagrees

A favourite play chosen for study of Shakespeare’s works in university-level English classes, "Macbeth" is a story of ambition taken to its bloody extreme, and one that leaves many innocent people strewn in its path of betrayal, slain by a tyrant. The Icarus Theatre Collective’s rendition of this classic tragedy is passionate and overall well worth the investment (both in money and time, as the play is nearly 3 hours).

Opening with an intense battle scene, the actors are carefully placed on stage so as to create an almost palpable tension that immediately grabs the audience’s full attention. Although this tension fades somewhat as the sound effects diminish, the momentum of the play does not falter due to the limited formal scene changes. The actors add and remove props quite seamlessly during the performance to maintain the flow of the play, albeit in a slightly distracting way at times. The actors bring superb talent to this show, with many of them having at least 4 roles in the play. Although at times the shifting of the actors between roles can be confusing, by the end of the performance the dynamism of many characters can be greatly appreciated by the audience.

I would like to draw special attention to Matthew Bloxham, who gave a stellar performance in his many roles (Banquo, Porter, Young Siward, Murderer, Doctor) and particularly with his role as Porter brought some much-needed comic relief to the otherwise rather grim plot and mentally unstable personae of other characters. Other highlights of the show were the director’s and designers’ thematic use of the moon as a focal point for the atmosphere of particular scenes with increasing amounts of “spilled blood” cascading from the top of the moon and showing the passing of time with clouds. One especially stellar element was the infamous “double, double toil and trouble” witch brew scene, with a very creative use of fog-like vapour, a piercing spotlight, and flames in the face of the moon to portray a spooky ethereal spirit with a chilling voice. The sound effects rose to a crescendo to match the growing energy of the scene in a synergistic way, truly drawing the audience into the play. On a side note, this element was perfectly fit for opening the play on Halloween, evoking similarly spooky or “scary” associations as the costumes of many students parading outside for the holiday. Other set elements used such as red jagged lights effectively conveyed the mounting bloodshed and pervading sense of fear and loss under Macbeth’s brutal reign as king. Thus the set constructed a very creative and powerful atmosphere, which was a highlight of this performance.

A few minor criticisms that ultimately did not affect my rating of this play are inconsistent sound effects, the seemingly forced relationship between Lady Macbeth (played by Sophie Brooke) and Macbeth (played by Joel Gorf), and lighting which often left actors in dark areas. Specifically, in the opening fight scene a more continuous barrage of sound effects would have helped maintain the tension and energy established by the actors, while in contrast, several sound effects later in the second half were nearly unbearable for the audience, including a very loud crying baby sound which caused many in the audience to plug their ears. Secondly, although the initial embrace and kiss between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth was very passionate and believable, this powerful connection seemed to diminish over the course of the play and subsequent embraces were rigid and awkward. Perhaps this merely reflected the rapidly declining mental state of each character as the guilt and ghost haunting eroded away their sanity; however, a more emotionally powerful connection could have maintained a passionate, conspirator-oriented relationship throughout the show. Finally, the lighting for some of the soliloquies was largely ineffective at focussing the audience’s attention on the actor speaking. One prime example of this inadequate lighting was during Lady Macbeth’s opening scene, where her face was hidden in shadows while she read the letter from Macbeth, thus obscuring her facial expressions.

Overall, however, the positive aspects of this play outweigh the shortcomings, and the quality of Shakespeare’s original text is maintained by this rendition. Creative interpretations such as effective use of the moon as a focal point of the play as well as showing the Macbeth dinner scene twice, once where Banquo’s ghost is visible and again from the opposite camera perspective with no ghost visible, added new dimensions of meaning to the original text. The dinner scene idea is evocative of other presentations of altered reality, such as in the movie A Beautiful Mind. I think the effect was especially powerful in this performance because the audience truly saw both perspectives of Macbeth’s borderline insanity, seeing the ghost as Macbeth did and then seeing the same scene from the guests’ and Lady Macbeth’s perspective. This scene also revealed Sophie Brooke’s best performance in the play as Lady Macbeth attempting to ameliorate the situation by apologizing to guests and placating Macbeth.

In sum, while maintaining the integrity of Shakespeare’s original script, the Icarus Theatre Collective’s take on "Macbeth" adds numerous creative elements, riveting emotional and fight scenes, and novel thematic elements to draw in the audience, leaving a lasting unsettling sensation about this formidable tragedy. While some technical sound and lighting issues and the naturalness of the Macbeth couple’s relationship could be improved, the performance as a whole is commendable and definitely worthwhile to see.

agree
disagree

Audience Avg.

0 votes, 0 comments

Click here for more event information

cast involved

other events on

Version 0.3.7a