Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
Reviewed – 11th February 2020
“succeeds in bringing the darkness of Macbeth to life through inspired direction, artful effects and compelling acting”
In an arresting version of his shortest, bloodiest tragedy, Shakespeare tells of unbridled ambition and the ensuing punishment in a tale of brutality, guilt, innocence and fate. Returning home from battle, Macbeth and fellow general, Banquo, come across three witches, whose supernatural element denotes temptation, and they foretell that Macbeth will become king. When Lady Macbeth hears the news, she persuades her husband to quicken things along by killing King Duncan. Afterwards, Macbeth becomes desperate with fear of losing the crown and gets rid of everyone who he thinks stands in his way, until nobleman Macduff gets his revenge. In contrast, Lady Macbeth is haunted by guilt, day and night, and eventually kills herself. The narrative has relevance today with its timeless themes and gives the central couple a modern slant through Lady Macbeth’s calculating dominance in their relationship – an unusual depiction of a wife for that time.
Douglas Rintoul’s mindful direction allows the play to be expressed by Shakespeare’s words which, in turn, enable the characters to develop. His subtle touches of imaginative staging, for example the silhouetted battles and murders, lessen the distraction from the psychological intensity and we are gripped by the horror of human nature. The technical effects enhance both the storyline and the atmosphere. A red laser shines across the bare stage, reminding us of the blood spilt for power. The lighting by Daniella Beattie illuminates the scenes with the glow of the northern landscape and the bleakness inside the castle. Paul Falconer’s incidental music and sound punctuates the action, adding clarity and mood to the plot, and the costumes (Chrissy Maddison) have an ageless simplicity, the earthy browns, blacks and greys of the men against the soft heather colours of the women.
Many of the cast play two or three parts, switching convincingly between them. The witches (Connie Walker, Danielle Kassaraté and Colette McNulty) are wild and mischievous with their sinister prophecies, while Tilda Wickham’s Malcolm verges on overly placid, especially when trying to pretend to be more tyrannous than Macbeth. Phoebe Sparrow as Lady Macbeth captures some poignant moments, notably the sleepwalking scene, but the hold she has on her husband appears as bullying rather than deep coercive malevolence and she seems to lose control quickly. Outstanding are Paul Tinto and Ewan Somers as Macbeth and Macduff. As the revengeful hero, Somer’s Macduff is played throughout with all his human traits intact, particularly when he learns of his slain family. Tinto, from brave warrior becomes the dominated spouse at home and then spirals into savage ruthlessness. Even his ‘To-morrow, and to-morrow…’ speech is said with a callous indifference for life.
A dramatically impressive production, it succeeds in bringing the darkness of Macbeth to life through inspired direction, artful effects and compelling acting, and portends another great year for Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, The Stage Awards ‘London Theatre of the Year 2020’.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Mark Sepple
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until 29th February
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
We Anchor in Hope
Reviewed – 3rd October 2019
“a richly atmospheric show about memory, community, and what it means to let go.”
The stage area of The Bunker Theatre has been transformed into a neighbourhood pub. With a fully-functioning bar, ‘The Anchor’ is open an hour prior to each performance for drinks and pool. There’s no need to go out to the foyer for a pint during the interval. A pub quiz every Tuesday night after the show, and karaoke every Thursday night, completes the transformation.
Written by Anna Jordan and directed by Chris Sonnex, We Anchor in Hope is a simmering, uneasy piece that reminds us how precarious our footholds are in society’s ever-shifting landscape. Designed by Zoe Hurwitz, The Anchor is a working-class, locals’ pub. It’s an old bastion in its Pimlico neighbourhood, but the play begins on its last day in business. The year is 2016. The referendum has just passed. The owner calls The Anchor a “safe place”, a haven from the madness. But while we may be safe inside, Jordan and Sonnex ensure we’re constantly aware of the tides of change lapping at the doors. The Anchor won’t withstand the relentless waves of gentrification.
The two young bartenders are Pearl (Alex Jarrett) and Bilbo (Daniel Kendrick). Pearl has grown up in bars. She remembers being six years old, colouring in colouring books while her mum flirted at the pool table. Bilbo got his nickname from his love of The Hobbit. Raised in foster homes, the community at The Anchor is the closest thing he’s had to family. Regulars Frank (David Killick) and Shaun (Alan Turkington) are in almost every day. Frank, in his seventies, is a fixture at the pub. He’s seen it change hands from father to son. Shaun works construction during the week, and goes home at the weekends to see his wife and kids. Kenny (Valentine Hanson) owns the pub. It’s been a rough few months for him. His wife left around the same time he was forced to sell The Anchor.
The crew decide to have one last hurrah on The Anchor’s final night. The last of the alcohol needs to be drunk. “When it’s gone, it’s gone.” As the night unfolds, tensions rise, secrets are revealed, and decisions are reached. The five personalities of the play are dynamic and complicated, compellingly brought to life by a talented cast. Killick stands out for his precise portrayal of The Anchor’s own anchor, Frank; Kendrick for his earnest performance of the down-and-out Bilbo.
We Anchor in Hope is largely a character study. It works for the most part, thanks to the vividness of the characters and the strength of the cast. However, the lack of narrative thread can make the show feel long at times. The beginning is slow, and the play takes some time to find its stride. More shape to the story would cut down the instances when the show seems to stall or drift.
Nevertheless, Jordan has skilfully captured the brief sigh of mourning – for the comfort of the status quo, and the nostalgia for the way things were – before the necessity of moving on. This is a working-class story. All communities must adapt with the changing times, but it’s the working classes that are hit the hardest. It’s harder punches they have to roll with, and while it seems clear the crew at The Anchor will survive – they are survivors – they’ll carry the bruises with them.
Jordan, Sonnex, and Hurwitz have created a richly atmospheric show about memory, community, and what it means to let go. Pull up a barstool and join in the bitter celebration for the end of an era.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Photography by Helen Murray
We Anchor in Hope
The Bunker until 19th October
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: