FRINGE REVIEW – Replaying Macbeth, Paradise in The Vault


With any number of Macbeth plays in Fringe 2011, Ray Sutton offers a very different look at this anti-hero of Shakespeare’s creation. Replaying Macbeth takes us through Sutton’s reconstruction of acting styles in the 18th century, focusing on an acting revolution that occurred in the 1740s with the new style of David Garrick and contrasting it with the established style, as embodied in the performances of James Quin.

For the most part, this is more of a lecture than a performance, particularly as Sutton speaks to his audience directly but does not really connect to us in his initial welcome nor with real eye contact at any time. The feel is that he is presenting academic research, putting forward his reasons for coming to certain playings of key scenes, explaining the evidence available and how this has to be enhanced by “informed speculation – or making it up”. There are flashes of dry wit and there is a lot of historical information: bring pen and paper if you wish to grab some of this, but be warned, it does fly past rather quickly.

Through Sutton’s Replaying Macbeth we learn about the theory of the passions – thoughts on the psychology and physicality of human feeling and action – and how this could come to inform acting technique. A demonstration of just one passion – fear – shows how strange these set gesticulations and poses may seem nowadays, but Sutton then brilliantly introduces just how they can be seen in very popular contemporary performance by the simple production of a modern magazine. Dr Who, anyone?

After laying out the background of his research, Sutton dons the character of Macbeth, first via James Quin, known for vocal resonance, dignity, clear speech, a swinging motion of the arms and portentous pauses which, along with other characteristics, gained him a lot of criticism once Garrick’s style became popular. Then we see Macbeth via David Garrick, known for a more ‘real’ portrayal, speaking low and responding to others rather than the completely posed full declamation that ignores other characters. Set demonstrative gestures are visible in both renditions, but Sutton clearly portrays the differences between the styles and goes on to say what he was hoping to show, just to be clear.

Of interest, too, is the difference in the texts used, for Garrick restored Shakespeare’s lines after William Davenant’s text had been used since the Restoration, so the Quin excerpts are really quite different from the Shakespeare known today.

Sutton does not show how he would play Macbeth, so in the reconstructions there is no way to see how much is Sutton himself, and as a presenter he is more of a removed lecturer than a performer engaging the audience with energy and charm. However, Sutton’s own interest in this work shines through and Replaying Macbeth is clearly presented, offers a lot of interesting information and some fascinating insights into 18th century performance, with demonstration of such performance and a rather fine dying speech from Macbeth to end.

23 – 27 August, 12:15 (13:15) @ Paradise in The Vault

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