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15 June 2012


Old Court Theatre, Chelmsford
Friday 15th June 2012

CTW's latest project has been the Bard's fabled Scottish play, in their take on the famous tale of ambition and bloodshed.  

An entirely black set offered a striking contrast against the colourful, youthful witches (Emma Ritchie, Sarah Chandler, Andrea Smith-Valls).  Faces lit by frequently referenced iPads, their prophecies were delivered with the throwaway frivolity that a remote virtual world allows us in our modern society.  An unusual take, but it worked well to disconnect the weird sisters from the rest of the cast, and to offer a modern audience a technological medium for the sister's knowledge that would once have only been reasoned as magic.

The black of the set was echoed throughout the rest of the cast, with all of the warriors donning long black coats with black t-shirts, jeans and boots.  This relatively modern style was coupled with traditional weapons of swords and daggers, keeping the well choreographed fight scenes (arranged by Steven Braken-Keogh) close handed and intense.  A switch to grey t-shirts at the arrival of the English was simple but effective, to show the new alliances that had been so swiftly formed.  A hint of regal purple was also introduced to distinguish the status of King Duncan, and later for the Macbeths too.

Director Lynne Foster, assisted by Mick Foster, stated that they aimed for a pacey, uncluttered production.  This was achieved superbly, without compromising on delivery which maintained a well pitched light and shade throughout.  Diction was consistently clear and some hard work must have gone into certain members of the cast whose speech I have, in previous productions, struggled to understand.  There were some scenes that could have made more use of the traverse staging, where I found myself craning my neck towards the stage end for too long.  It was also a shame that nothing had been done about the creaky steps from the auditorium to the stage.  Such a simple element that, considering the frequency with which they were needed, became quite a distraction.  Saying that, there were moments when the entrance from the foyer was used with wonderful impact, and the large acting space was certainly needed to give the numerous actors the room not to seem cluttered.

The title role was taken by Jim Crozier, who showed his worth as an experienced and dependable Shakespearian cast member.  A considered performance, demanding a huge range and depth of emotion.  His speeches were delivered with all of the gravitas demanded, but maintained a steady pace without either the need for rushed thoughts, nor drawn out pauses.  His wife in both cast and character, Beth Crozier shone in a study of the ambitious Lady behind the man who would be King.  Her Lady Macbeth developed from the beginnings of a ruthless but rational wife, resourceful and full of purpose, and descended into the depths of guilt-ridden madness completely in a haunting sleepwalk scene.  An exemplary performance.

Among the rest of the populous cast there were some stand-out performances.  The female Thanes, Karen Pemberton's fated Banquo and Vicky Pead's Ross, though perhaps unconventional were both particularly strong and full of conviction.  Dean Hempstead as Macduff was a powerful presence and brought a strength and energy, particularly to the scene of Macbeth's final demise.  Bart Lambert was entirely captivating as the wronged heir Malcolm, and seemed to understand the drama in remaining motionless when being convinced to return to Scotland.

An absorbing production, with a clarity of style that also made it accessible.  Congratulations to the long list of names involved on an entertaining and intelligent accomplishment.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your kind words, Laura - I'm glad you enjoyed it. I know what you mean about the stairs - believe me, we've tried to do something about it, but they're just old and creaky.