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Verdict: Compact, imaginative, lively, moving Shakespeare
This production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is compact, imaginative, lively, and moving – and the venue’s large stage is perfect for such an epic story. Community 20 keep it unrestricted by complicated sets, relying on their voices and bodies to tell the story of the murdering Lord & Lady Macbeth destroyed by their ambition to become King and Queen of Scotland.
The strong bond of love between the Macbeth couple is apparent from the start and Stephen Eliot-Macdonald and Cecilia Colby handle the demise of the relationship well. Stephen Eliot-Macdonald is a master of Shakespearean language and his rich tones find the perfect pitch for Macbeth’s madder moments. Cecilia Colby complements them by swinging easily between Lady Macbeth’s varying states of charming hostess, vulnerable wife and ruthless murderess.
Graham Price’s Banquo brings a reliable, exuberant energy to the drama, capturing well the tender moments with his son, as does Esin Harvey’s Lady Macduff. The decision to use a child instead of an adult playing a child in this homely domestic scene helps to underpin Guy Moore’s heartbreaking portrayal of Macduff’s pain on learning of his family’s slaughter.
It contrasts with the vacuous grief that creeps up Malcolm and Donalbain when they learn of the death of their father King Duncan (Titus Adam). John Glynn and Richard Firth are utterly convincing brothers, and they allow the resulting paranoia and loneliness associated with royal families to seep through them with professional ease.
There’s welcome light relief from Nicola Fisher’s bawdy Night Porter. She skips through Shakespeare’s double entendres, with a saucy charm, deftly bringing life into the dated puns.
Alice Hoult’s design is simple yet magical. A single wire hung on the diagonal brings in the light ethereal curtains of Lady Macbeth’s chamber. Umbrellas that help to set the heavy rainfall at the start later – and effectively - become Birnam Wood on the move. Julia Goldsmith’s costumes of boots and army overcoats are heavy and woollen, practical and masculine. The virginal white and then brighter luscious purple of Lady Macbeth’s robes make a pleasing contrast.
Macbeth is director Tarek Iskander’s first professional production. His choice to mould the script’s three witches into one innocent, childlike, elfin creature, pays off. So does setting her in the audience. She stays there throughout the play within her own parallel world, watching her predictions and fate unfold. The witch is often cleverly used to sew the scene changes together. Natalie Pownall delivers her with compelling grace.
The decision to keep the audience standing, promenade style within the acting space in the second half – when Macbeth confronts the Weird Sister - is a bold move. The cast manage to carry it off, but it does - frustratingly – temporarily slow down the action.
Community 20’s production maintains sufficient energy to earn its gentler moments, and never compromises on clarity or storytelling. All the actors are well-cast and able. The epic quality is brought together by excellent ensemble playing from the company.
Cast Credits: (alpha order): Titus Adam - Duncan / Seyward. Ben Carpenter - Fleance. Stephen Cheriton - Lennox. Cecilia Colby - Lady Macbeth. Katrina Cooke - Macbeth’s Servant. Stephen Eliot-McDonald - Macbeth. Nicola Fisher - Porter / Gentlewoman / Soldier. Richard Firth - Donalbain / Seyton. John Giles - Menteth. John Glynn - Malcolm. Esin Harvey - Lady Macduff / Army Captain / Lady Macbeth’s Servant. Paul Handley - Murderer / Messenger. Tom Hallgarten / Katie Brown / Anna Diski / Ella O’Brien / Ella Wilks-Harper - Lady Macduff’s Son / Daughter. Matt Minto - Ross. Guy Moore - Macduff. Cristophoros Panoutsos - Bleeding Captain / Doctor / Murderer. Nathalie Pownhall - Three Witches. Graham Price - Banquo.
Company Credits: William Shakespeare - Writer. Tarek Iskander - Director. Sarah Trueman - Assistant Director. Alice Hoult - Production Designer. Julia Goldsmith - Costume Designer. Benjamin Ehrenreich - Lighting Designer. Matt Greasly - Composer/Sound Designer. Helen Smythe - Stage Manager. Lorenzo Cavini - Photography. Marcello Paul - Fight Director. Georgia Jacobs - Assistant Designer. David Santos - Production Manager. Roger Clark - Fundraising/Community 20 Chair. Rashad Manna - Marketing. Kamak Arzhangi - Finance. Stephen Wallis - Website Design. Carol Fairlamb - Voice Coach. Sandra Iskander / Tony Lewis / Chantal Pierre-Packer / Anna Watkins - Lighting/Sound Operators. Thanks: Tm Barron, Chris Cadman, Italia Conti, Stuart Crane, Arts Ed, Alex Laws, Network Theatre, Young Vic. Company - Community 20. Gabby Vautier - Producer.
(c) Hannah Dee 2006
reviewed Saturday 25 February 06 / Theatro Technis
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