“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’.
“the cast bring Gaitán’s play to life with imaginative staging and excellent acting”
Raskolnikov, an impoverished former student, has a theory that society is divided into ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ people, and that the latter have the right to use evil means to achieve humanitarian good. Considering himself one of these superior beings, he plans and commits a crime but is consequently haunted by harrowing guilt. Although ‘Crime and Punishment’ is the story of a murder and the eventual confession of the perpetrator, Dostoyevsky’s classic novel is primarily an investigation into the psychopathology of the murderer. However, if an evening of intense moral anguish is a daunting prospect, then Teatro Nómada’s enlightening new production is the perfect antidote. Originally published in 2013 under the title ‘Leakage(s) and Anticoagulants’, writer, David Gaitán, constructs a superb dramatisation of the protagonist’s feverish ordeal in the form of a chorus of four individuals who vocalise the conflicting thoughts in his head. Sometimes they are united but often they argue amongst themselves; they tease, support, egg him on and irritate him with their nagging. Through them we can picture his mind and its perpetual conflict. Gaitán leaves to one side the complex sub-plots, the religious angle and the impact of urban hardship and uses just six of the book’s characters to focus on Raskolnikova (in this case, a woman) and her journey to the recovery of a diseased spirit.
Fresh out of the ‘Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’, director, Fernando Sakanassi, and the cast bring Gaitán’s play to life with imaginative staging and excellent acting. Through the script, artfully humanising the various voices, the five actors effect an atmosphere of foreboding with defined personalities and striking facial expressions. They merge into the plot’s personas by a simple change of costume (Rodrigo Muñoz), always leaving a member of the chorus on stage as a reminder. Raskolnikova is played by Hana Kelly, capturing the powerful angst from the opening and slowly being worn down by her own remorse. Jack Tivey is her best friend, Razumihin, charmingly garrulous and positive, while Zoë Clayton-Kelly portrays chief investigator Olga with her smug smile and self-assured composure. Zamiotov, a mere clerk in the novel, is given upgraded importance in an appealing interpretation by Alessandro Piavani. The music of Pergolesi’s ‘Stabat Mater’ is the nearest reference to the religious nature of Sonia whose pure, Christian goodness in the book is replaced by altruistic generosity and reflected with beautiful naïvety by Mariam Khundadze.
On a bare stage, Sakanassi uses constructive and imaginative movement to shape the internal conversations of Raskolnikova’s dilemma, with wooden poles as the only props, threatening, fighting and trapping him. Sound (José Canseco) and lighting (María Fernanda Cuervo) give the production the perfect technical addition, enhancing without overpowering and some unexpected singing fits neatly into the narrative. Even though it takes a minute or two to get into the style at the beginning and that the end is somewhat incidental, it is hard to believe that this is a ‘work-in-progress’. Whatever work is done or progress made, let’s hope it doesn’t lose its compelling inventiveness.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
The Actors Centre until 5th February as part of the Latin American Season