Macbeth Review Rose and Crown 1997

Wednesday, 5 November, 1997

Martin Richard's direction throws the action forward from 1057, a few years before the Battle of Hastings, to contemporary Cyberia. For me, the electronic wizardry didn't work - or putting it more precisely - it wasn't necessary. Everything I ever remembered about this play was presented authoritively and honestly - which isn't to say that in the direction I would have done all the scenes in the same way.

Certainly, the opening scene of the three witches was streets ahead of my visualisation. For this youthful, yummy coven of double double toil and troublers, I'd have willingly jumped in the pot. Significantly the seeming lightness of their first act appearance became menacingly clear at the beginning of the second, when the now deranged Macbeth was falling into their trap by assuring himself that he would survive any attempt on his life by a person born of woman.

Duncan, the king, (Ian Ramage) and his son Malcolm (Justin Woodgate) are not roles which dominate your thinking, but they move the increasingly ambitious war hero Macbeth to contemplate the murder of his revered monarch.

It is a tribute from me, that I bring to mind and measure the performances of Macbeth (Steven Yule) and Lady Macbeth (Kate Best) against those of classic actors of their time. Shakespeare is a difficult language to portray convincingly. They did it wonderfully well. In other more prestigious auditoria the interplay between these two characters has brought many competent actors to breathtaking modesty.

In this rendering, for me, insufficient evilness is attributed to Lady Macbeth. You've only got to look at Kate Best to know that she's a nice person. Put Maggie Smith in the same role and you would know, before she opened her mouth, that the Thane of Cawdor had married into a whole lot of trouble.

Lady Macbeth should be the driving force. She is the one who persuades her cerebrally deprived action man that she has sinister ambitions for him - and for herself. More hiss and less kiss would be my preference, unless I was walking her home after the show.

The playing of Macbeth had it's highs and lows. The slow motion and balletic fight scenes were richly rewarding, as were some of the famous set pieces. "Wake Duncan with thy knocking - I wish thou couldst." This unconvinced murderer obeyed his tyrannical wife in consultation with the three soothsayers. Smilingly I say they wouldn't be out of place at Stringfellows, but it works. Midnight hags! I should coco.

The Macduffs carried this play for me. Lady Macduff (Kathy Haynes) and Boy (Louise Bolton) meet their destiny in a chillingly effective murder scene. Excellent movement - and screams which will disturb many unsuspecting visitors to Hampton Wick.

Macduff himself (Dave Lawrenceson) - tall, angular and deeply troubled, is everything I have ever perceived his character to be. He shakes the theatre with his anger several times with blood curdling conviction. His denouement with Macbeth is a maelstrom (on both their parts) of terror. To say that Macbeth is disillusioned by discovering that his slayer was "from his mother's womb untimely ripped" is a dramatic understatement and this phrase sums up the savagery of his going.

As for Lady Macbeth, she is not served well by the direction and the required portrayal of her final scene. It is played too fast and too far, in my opinion, to give her a fair chance to demonstrate her lunacy. "To bed - to bed? - tell me when - but it will have to be slower.

We've got enough trees in the parks at Hampton Wick for you not to have to travel to Dunsinane. Just get along to the Rose and Crown before 23rd November.

Culture. Movingly portrayed.

(John Timperley)

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