Reviewed – 4th March 2019
“Postlethwaite commands as Macbeth. He is every inch the rugged soldier and he compellingly takes us through the light and shade of Macbeth’s personality”
The Watermill Theatre in Bagnor near Newbury is without doubt one of the most beautifully located theatres that there is. The auditorium seats just 200 people and the fixtures of a once working mill make it utterly charming and unique. It prides itself on its in-house productions providing an eclectic mix of classic and contemporary pieces.
Macbeth has been a very present work in the last year, with both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre giving us updated productions. Traditionally, Macbeth, a brave Scottish General, is visited by a trio of witches who prophesise that he will become King of Scotland. His ambition, and that of his wife, spurs him to murder King Duncan and take the throne. A continuity of control and ruthless violence create their eventual demise as they are consumed by guilt and paranoia.
Artistic Director, Paul Hart has tried to bring some original elements to this production. Sometimes it works and sometimes it falls short. The set (Katie Lias) is simple and relies heavily on lighting to create the necessary tone of the piece. Lighting Designer Tom White succeeds to an extent. Duncan’s murder is one of the most compelling moments in the production and this is largely down to the staging and lighting which create a sinister and shocking scene. It also worked very well at the close as we saw the blood falling down the wall as it fell from Malcom’s crown. However, throughout the rest of the production it was less effective and uninteresting.
Billy Postlethwaite commands as Macbeth. He is every inch the rugged soldier and he compellingly takes us through the light and shade of Macbeth’s personality during the monologues and soliloquies. Lillie Flynn as Banquo is excellent although I was confused as to the relevance of the gender swapping of the character as it did not bring anything to the production. Emma McDonald as Lady Macbeth is rightly, unlikable and I felt no sympathy for the character. Her diction seemed over enunciated and the presentation felt forced. Eva Feiler as the Porter confused me and the performance was never quite humorous or creepy enough. The idea of this character as a bell hop could have been a genius one but it never reached its potential. The exclusion of the Wyrd Sisters was also a baffling choice.
The Watermill has been using the musical element of their productions as an integral part of their plays for some time. I have seen it work in previous productions to great effect but with Macbeth it seemed formulaic though the choreography by Movement Director, Tom Jackson Greaves was pleasant and effective. Shakespeare works best when kept fresh and relevant and sadly this production did not quite manage it.
Reviewed by Emma Gradwell
Photography by Pamela Raith
Watermill Theatre until 30th March
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: