So much effort has gone into Another Macbeth it is painful to state that there is a major problem, but this show is so pedestrian it is soporific, literally: there were people sleeping and it was clear to see why.
The publicity says the “Weyward Sisters direct the cast of their travelling show” but only the design reflects this with a hamper of costume and prop items on stage. While the witches become various characters and provide props at significant moments in a significant manner (such as the “air-drawn dagger” Macbeth sees), there is nothing really made of this being a troop of travelling players, mostly because it is a very literal rendering of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Such an interpretation of the script, while helpful in some places with sound effects and visuals, damages some of the imaginative power usually present in this play by making solid that which could be drawn by the mind alone.
Macbeth is the tale of a respected warrior transforming into a murderous tyrant, egged on by his own ambition, supernatural prophesies and his wife. This Macbeth infuses his words with emotional meaning, and both Macbeths have an attractive natural style to their speech, but they, along with the rest, are so focused on making the words clear that they cannot properly convey thought and life. The work clearly done on understanding the text is impressive and absolutely necessary, but to bring Shakespeare’s characters to life there must be very quick thinking for speech and a trust to the forward drive of the verse that brings dynamic speed, with variation of pace, so that the audience‘s attention is kept throughout.
Design includes basic puppetry, costume accents that help quick character changes and white hangings put to good use for scene setting and lighting, the latter being dramatically effective. Some fine directing ideas make good sense of the action, whether unusual (the presentation of the witches’ apparitions) or obvious, such as Macbeth laying daggers down out of his lady’s sight so that it is not ridiculous for her only to notice them later – it is shocking how often a production will keep them in plain sight with no acting by the lady to show why she has a sudden reaction. However, the production really suffers from an earnest manner that becomes somewhat oppressive, belabouring the words rather than releasing them despite the clarity with which they are spoken. This damages the humour, makes the fast action slow and dulls the audience’s senses.
As first stated, it is obvious a lot of work has gone into this amateur production and the clarity of thought in the direction and speech is to be admired. Another Macbeth cannot however be recommended to entertain the audience. If you wish to hear the words clearly within a fine looking presentation, there is reason to see this show, but a lack in story-telling energy and acting life makes this a ponderous production, slow and heavy.
15 – 20 August, 14:15 (15:45) @ Quaker Meeting House