Milford Haven School’s abridged Macbeth first appeared as part of the fantastic initiative that is the Shakespeare Schools Festival. This charity works to “challenge the preconception that studying Shakespeare is difficult, dry or dull through a combination of teacher training, workshops and student performance” and is enthusiastically enjoyed by teachers and pupils who take part, producing some great entertainment and spreading the joy of Shakespeare’s works.
Excellent direction and real focus and energy from the cast produces a visually stunning production using just costume and three black boxes, well-lit, with some washes of red, and well-sounded with music that builds drama and suspense, along with the stage used as a drum by the cast. Supporting players are on at the back throughout and used well in scenes, particularly through the sharing of lines. This device is also used for some main characters and throughout helps the dynamism and energy of the piece. It is particularly effective in the witches, dramatically clad in red satin wings that create their storms – external and internal within Macbeth and others. Lady Macbeth, however, sharing Macbeth’s lines becomes involved in his plotting after the murder of King Duncan and this changes the Macbeths’ relationship. While it makes sense in performance and may not be remarked by anyone not knowing the play, it means that her isolation from her husband, which is part of her journey into madness, has been completely lost, and Macbeth’s estrangement from all is unclear.
Other losses include cuts that damaged the sense of sentences and scenes -that between Macduff and Malcolm particularly suffering (though the message of devastation was well delivered without need for words) – and some necessary words which were dropped or distorted by the actors, including the one playing Macbeth, though he gave a fine performance, with strength, understanding and passion. The ending, too, suffered, but here it was from continued shouting and forced voice, without variation.
Overall, though, this is a fine production, a Macbeth that has depth, interest and fine pace, driving through the story well and with atmospheric texture and direction that brings a fresh feel to this oft-performed play.
22 – 27 August, 18:05 (19:05)@ theSpaces @ Surgeons’ Hall