Reviewed – 1st February 2018
“The multi-rolling aspect of the cast can turn into periods of ‘accent bingo’”
The Rose Playhouse naturally lends its atmosphere to any show that takes place inside. The architecture’s mix of preserved history alongside modern fittings coincides nicely with Alex Pearson’s production of Macbeth. The collision of Shakespeare’s text within a contemporary setting could draw clear parallels to the world of today, but the mix does not quite blend together.
The text has been cut to seventy minutes and hits each plot point with relative smoothness. After a glorious victory in battle, Macbeth encounters three beings whose prophecies will set him to a bloody path aspiring to take the throne. One of Shakespeare’s shortest plays, ruthlessly cut we do however lose some of the depth in characterisation. Motivations can seem unclear when the aims of characters drastically turn in a matter of minutes, and this confusion could be avoided with a few restorations.
Pearson’s minimal production washes the production in a loose modern day concept that never becomes clear. At times the architecture is used effectively, complimented by David Palmer utilising back lights to create some interesting silhouettes. It is a shame that not all the theatre is used as well, and for such an atmospheric setting we don’t see enough of it. The multi-rolling aspect of the cast can turn into periods of ‘accent bingo’ in order to differentiate, whereas blocking is functional but can feel clunky, with transitions especially failing to drive the momentum as we reach the closing stages of the play.
The performances of the cast follow the line of not quite managing to soar. Jesse Ayertey’s titular tyrant sparks into life the rage and ambition, but lacks the vulnerability to entice the audience to care. Esther Shanson’s Lady Macbeth similarly plays lines with real insight but seems lost in other passages. It is the supporting performances where we are really able to invest, with a sympathetic and clear Macduff from Jack Spencer and Parys Jordon drawing a range of strong characterisations. But alongside a bland setting and a patronisingly misjudged Porter, they are not enough to save matters at hand.
When you enter, the Rose Playhouse feels as though it has the potential to deliver something special for a company, lending it a feel that few other venues can. But this Macbeth fails either to play the text with enough conviction to stand on its own feet or to use the venue confidently enough to compensate.
Reviewed by Callum McCartney
Photography by Greg Goodale
Rose Playhouse until 24th February
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