The crew behind the production of this play, led by director Dan Pick, deserves considerable credit. The stage design, lighting and music combined to impressive effect – providing an appropriately stark and severe setting for such a chilling narrative. The relocation of Shakespeare’s story to a militarised 20th century, southern Europe is successful. The world of which Shakespeare writes, one rife with power struggle and insecurity, draws intriguing parallels with the battlefields of Europe in 1939. The corrugated iron sheets that frame the stage, lit by various sombre shafts of light, convey the claustrophobic threat of the harsh world that the characters inhabit. While dark and repetitive piano tones, almost filmic in their regularity, are threaded throughout the performance, enhancing the cold atmosphere.
With such impressive foundations established, the acting was a slight disappointment. Many of the cast delivered their lines with little regard for their poetry and rhythm, perhaps in an effort to integrate with the modern minimal set up. In particular, Macbeth (Datta) and Lady Macbeth (Berry) failed to convince. The latter was more a pesky suburban housewife than a woman possessed by lust for power on the grand scale. In delightful contrast were the three witches. Freed by the explicitly magical nature of their characters, they grasped the audience’s attention with their sinister sexuality and the tightness of their interaction. It is the witches, as well as the brilliantly choreographed and well-executed ‘set-piece’ scenes, such as the banquet haunted by Banquo, that almost redeem the play. Unfortunately, the one-paced acting of most of the cast causes time to drag and leaves one grateful for the conclusion.
Macbeth ran at Bloomsbury Theatre from 17th-19th February 2011.
2 1/2 Stars