On the 21st of October I went to see “Long Overdue’s” production of the legendary Shakespeare play, “Macbeth” which was performed in the “Burnavon Theatre”, in Cookstown. In this review I am going to discuss whether this production was successful or not and which elements I thought stood out the most.
Character is the most important element in any play and in this production of Macbeth, this was especially so. I found the portrayal of Macbeth to be strong and the actor fitted into his role well. He was well cast and I could easily see his transfer from a good, loyal soldier of the Scottish King, to the man who we saw at the end (quite mad and almost insane with power.)
In my opinion, Lady Macbeth was not as well cast. She was certainly portrayed as a very passionate woman but I think that this was overplayed. Her true evil and strength were not put forward strongly enough. When she asked to be de-feminised her lines lacked emotion, she did not convince me that she wanted this to happen. Her ambition to succeed was not portrayed. I believe that this lack of emotion was down to bad acting and not down to bad directing. Also, with Lady Macbeth being taller than Macbeth it made us wonder if Macbeth would have been able to overpower her.
I believe that Macduff played his role very well but in this production the importance of Macduff was not emphasised as much as in the Shakespeare’s original script.
All minor characters were played effectively but when actors doubled (one actor/actress plays a number of roles) it caused confusion. The production showed the same strength of character as most of the characters in the script original.
In Shakespeare’s original script the action revolves around the witches, therefore their contribution is immense and in this production they recognised this. It’s my opinion that it’s important to show their evil, supernatural side and lack of humanity. They are asexual. These were elements, which needed to be emphasised and “Long Overdue” successfully achieved this.
Initially the witches were displayed as three banners each with a symbol of three ancient cultures: Aboriginal; Egyptian; Celtic. I believe that these represented three ancient pagan cultures. In these cultures there was a great belief in the existence of the witches and the power of the supernatural. I found that the recorded voices were chilling and were portrayed successfully. The next time we met the witches they actually appear as physical forms. This showed us their supernatural power as they were able to appear in any shape.
Their costumes and masks were very effective. The masks lacked human qualities, but in saying that they did have vague human features which were contorted. Their posture was very good and their movement was well choreographed. It added to the theme of supernatural.
The background, setting and staging are vitally important to every play and “Long Overdue’s” had an unusual setting. They used a minimalist style of staging. This was a deliberately low budget production therefore there could not be any vast scene changes. Also, they are a touring company so the setting and staging needed to be easily transported. (This is avant-garde style acting so avant-garde setting had to be used because traditional setting would look out of place.) I thought that the staging was very clever. There was only one main prop, which could be portrayed as many things such as a bed, a rock and battlements of the castle. I thought it was successful because it was easily changed, portable and lightweight, the actors were able to change it quickly and the audience were never in doubt about what it had changed into.
“Long Overdue’s” production omitted a number of scenes, which were used in Shakespeare’s play. If this had been a traditional style production, leaving these scenes out would have been a weakness. The scenes which they used were the most important. They told us through the Narrator the contents of the scenes omitted, I thought this was very effective because it sped up the production.
All performers used Shakespeare’s traditional dialect, except for the Narrator. I found this very useful because if he had of used the traditional dialect people may not have been fully able to understand what he was saying.
It must be remembered that any production is more than acting. Technical devices are also important. In this production strong use of technical devices were noticed. One of these was lighting and the symbolic use of colours: white – good/day; red – evil/passion; blue – night-time; green – country; orange – fire/danger/heat.
Sound was also an important technical device. During battles the music was at a high tempo and upbeat. The sound effect of the witches was well done and gave a supernatural effect. Celtic music was played between scenes for continuity.
The masks of the witches showed us the extent of their abnormality. In the case of the two murders it represents their true facelessness. Also, Macduff’s wife and children wore a white mask with a blue diamond to represent their house.
Central to any play are the themes that it communicates to the audience. In Shakespeare’s play the main themes portrayed were: courage; love; ambition; kingship and evil and most of these themes were emphasised in “Long Overdue’s” production.
In the some productions we see unusual devices used which make the production stand out. In this production the thing that stood out where the dragons and the narrator
A narrator is an unusual device, which was not used in Shakespeare’s original script. This was useful for the people who did not understand the play, fully and allowed scenes to be omitted.
The Chinese dragons have no link to “Macbeth” itself but symbolically they showed they showed the battle between Scotland and Norway. This made us sit up and pay attention from the beginning. It could also have represented the battle between good and evil throughout he the play.
In conclusion, this production was very different from Shakespeare’s original text. This is what the directors’ intention was. It was not accidental. I believe that the different and avant-garde style worked very well but I still think that there were some weaknesses such as Lady Macbeth’s inability to show ambition, but overall I believe this production to be a success, especially for a young audience.