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Macbeth
★★★

Watermill Theatre

Macbeth

Macbeth

Watermill Theatre

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

 


Macbeth

Watermill Theatre until 30th March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Teddy | ★★★★★ | January 2018
The Rivals | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jane Eyre | ★★★★ | October 2018
Robin Hood | ★★★★ | December 2018
Murder For Two | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Twelfth Night – 3 Stars

Twelfth

Twelfth Night

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 13th September 2018

★★★

“It’s middle-of-the-road Shakespeare on display here though, with jokes found in physicality more than the text”

 

Wilton’s Music Hall is the perfect home for this fun and frivolous production of Twelfth Night, transferring after a popular run at the Watermill Theatre. The production oozes old-fashioned charm, and, with its talented troupe of actor-musicians performing a play so preoccupied with the power of music, is an energetic joy to behold.

Sir Toby Belch is our MC in ‘The Elephant Jazz Club’, and wittily guides us through some lovely swing numbers to kick off the show. Each cast member gets to show off some of their musical and dancing talents early on, and the range of instruments on show, and the number of instruments played by each member of the ensemble is incredible. For fans of swing covers of recent hits, this is the show for you. Orsino (Jamie Satterthwaite) charges recently shipwrecked twin-in-disguise Viola (Rebecca Lee) to woo the mourning Olivia on his behalf, little knowing that Viola actually loves him, and, as the show goes on, that Olivia is more interested in the servant than the master. This comedy is less about plot and more about antics, with Belch, Aguecheek and Feste providing enough mischief conning Malvolio (played with relish by Peter Dukes) to keep this audience roaring with laughter.

The songs, interwoven throughout, are gorgeous. Suits, hats and cigarettes are on full display to build the image of a twenties jazz club, and, though not providing a clear context for the story, nor adding anything other than a pretty aesthetic, the era seems to invite audiences to kick off their shoes and have some fun.

On the whole, the ensemble work hard and give energetic and exaggerated performances. Mike Slader makes for a comically over-the-top Aguecheek, reminiscent of a greasy Crispin Glover, and Dukes’ Malvolio is stoic and uptight, making his downfall (in all its drag glory) even greater to see. It’s middle-of-the-road Shakespeare on display here though, with jokes found in physicality more than the text, and most players’ delivery feels a little too theatrical and forced at times. A touch more variety in delivery, or belief in what is being said, may help the meaning to shine through clearer.

Lusciously lit in this beautiful space makes this production a hit though, and the audience were whooping and cheering raucously as the ensemble took their bows. Cracking comedy and tunes you can’t help tap your feet to are the order of the day, and this production delivers on all fronts.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by  Matt Crossick

 


Twelfth Night

Wilton’s Music Hall until 22nd September

 

 

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