Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Wednesday 9th May 2012
Provocative music and a well choreographed fight scene open Icarus' dramatic version of the Scottish play, at Chelmsford for one night on their UK tour.
Performed by a cast of just seven, the actors slip swiftly in and out of roles, often with just a cursory costume change. The costuming was traditional with an overall uniformity in style but just enough individuality to pick out the seperate characters. Minor costume changes often happened on stage and were always executed smoothly.
The set design complimented the style of the production excellently. Individual planks stood to create a haphazard back wall, and were also rearranged to give the staging some interesting additional levels when needed. A large red cloth dropped to serve as a dinner table, and a single throne was positioned to hide Banquo in a neatly done transition between murder and ghostly apparition.
That said, the production was partly a case of style over substance when it comes to the lead performances. Macbeth (Joel Gorf), although undeniably passionate and with a sizable amount of madness, was simply too shouty too often for my taste. Lady Macbeth (Sophie Brooke) opened with more than a hint of insanity before she had even finished reading her husband's first letter, giving her little opportunity to develop through the play and resulting in her feeling rather one-dimensional. Both also had a tendancy to rush their lines, with even the darkest and most brooding speeches speeding by in moments and thereby failing to generate enough tension towards Macbeth's final fall.
The supporting cast were extremely watchable in places. Zachary Holton as a towering King Duncan had a powerful stage presence. Richard Hay did a charming job in his few moments as Macduff's son. Richard Maxted was a controlled and commanding Macduff. The three Witches (Emma Carter, Sophie Brooke and Richard Hay) embodied the weird sisters wonderfully, hissing and growling like creatures from Lord of the Rings.
Despite the hits and misses, this was a relatively rare and welcome opportunity to see some professional Shakespeare performed locally, and was overall an enjoyable one.