The Curse of Macbeth

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Dominic Sowa

at 17:00 on 17th Aug 2011

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From the company behind the acclaimed Fringe 09 hit ‘Metamorphosis’, Cambridge University ADC has attempted to bring to the stage a bold and exciting reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s Scottish play to this year’s fringe. Staged in the splendour baroque setting of Hawke and Hunter’s night club turned fringe venue, this show aims to be show as dark and energetic as it is visually impressive.

The striking design of the play is unmatchable. Leather and bondage clad actors parade the stage, throwing themselves at the audience in a burlesque like performance that excites as well as scares. The show is slick, fast and almost cinematic with its dramatic lighting changes and piercing sounds that make the play seem like Macbeth on speed. The show’s pièce de résistance are the grand and expensive bloodstained mirrors, 5 in total, used inventively to create the ghostly and schizophrenic atmosphere of the play.

However for all its beauty (and sizable cost), the high energy and striking staging of the show seems to be a unsuccessful attempt to draw attention away from the complete lack of acting ability in the piece. The characterisation is shallow and completely emotionless. Even the choice of Guy Woolf as Macbeth seems to have come more from aesthetic demands than actual acting talent. His Macbeth is so one-dimensional it is impossible for a second to believe the character’s designs for the crown of Scotland. The deficit of talent is not restricted to the lead however. There was so much acting, but little of the good kind.

The play lacks moments of calm (or silence for that matter) where critical tension can be developed. Macbeth is never permitted to draw the audience into the complex psychology of his character, making it impossible to see some semblance real emotion. The only true believable emotions expressed come from Eve Hedderwick-Turner’s Lady Macbeth. However even her rare and sparse moments of greatness are destroyed by the overwhelming musical score which frequently drown out the terribly edited script.

The play looks good. Sadly that is all that is good about it. There were so many interesting, inventive and powerful physical theatre elements in it that it begs the question of why there is any pretension of acting involved at all. More suitable for physical theatre where this piece would shine with its brilliant staging, acting-wise, this play is a disappointment.

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David Knowles

at 10:03 on 18th Aug 2011

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Let me start this review by saying that most of the components of the Curse of Macbeth were excellent. The set looked fantastic; a wall of mirrors was set behind the actors and clever lighting enabled the audience to see through them at certain points which made moments like the appearance of the weird sisters an accomplished piece of theatre. The show was also blocked very cleverly with actors frequently visible on all sides through intelligent positioning of the mirrors. The soundscape for the show was also very impressive, constantly and unnervingly underscoring the action. The concept of the play was for me very close to perfect. Definitely the best designed show I have seen so far.

However the acting was very average throughout the show. It was never particularly bad at any point but also never particularly moving or emotional. The reason for this lay primarily in the script which has been savagely cut to make the play fit into an hour. The cutting of the script removes so much material that could have aided the actors in their search for a truthful character. As it is, I felt like I saw a ‘best of Macbeth’ show with little development in any character.

Guy Woolf playing Macbeth had great energy but let himself down through poor articulation that made many of his lines inaudible to the audience. For me, Woolf never got to the emotional heart of the part and instead shouted and stamped his way through the show. Eve Hedderick Turner, playing Lady Macbeth was more convincing and her ‘Out damned spot’ monologue was probably the highlight of the play. That monologue also illustrated another problem the show had. Namely that there were so many clever effects and freeze frames and noises and mirrors happening all the time the story was often lost. These effects were amazing; the weird sisters appearing with bloodied bandages round their eyes in the mirrors is the best example I can think of.

Watching the show I got the impression that the character development side of the acting had merely been an afterthought of the director who was more concerned with creating amazing set pieces with an incredible (and expensive, more than £2000 I was informed) set.

For those punters who want to watch a spectacle I could not recommend a finer show to see, but those of you who want to see an incredibly well acted version of Macbeth and don’t care how much the set costs should look elsewhere.

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