Macbeth, Son of Light ends with the pronunciation that ‘the truth must be told’. It would, indeed, be great to have the truth about the historical Macbeth told, and this is exactly what the production is supposed to do.
The most you can pick up from this play is the assertion that Gruoch – Lady Macbeth – was such a gentle person she could never have been as Shakespeare depicts, and that, probably, King Duncan died in battle rather than as the result of being murdered in bed. ‘Probably’ is due to the fact that a battle death is not mentioned in such a way as to be entirely clear to those who do not already have this knowledge. This ambiguity is partly due to would-be poetic lines, written for this play, which occasionally include a phrase of merit, but are mostly empty doggerel, including an alternative to Shakespeare’s witches’ spell around the cauldron which simply begs the question: why?
The bulk of the play is Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but the actors do not always speak his lines correctly. Sometimes line changes are due to cuts – perfectly acceptable in such a piece – but usually these changes showed lines were not properly learnt or even, occasionally, understood.
The actors themselves – a cast of four men – do show ability. One, though, is distinctly over the top, particularly when showing how evil various characters are, and only sometimes connects to emotional truth – though when he does, there are tiny moments of distinction. Macbeth – the Shakespearean protagonist – started a little low-voiced, but proved himself to be clear in thought and delivery, the most believable throughout. Macbeatha – the historical spectator to the Shakespearean play – connected well with Shakespearean lines, and reaction to Macbeth’s come-uppance, too, was both a good idea and decently performed. However, there was also a lot of over-dramatic delivery in his response to Shakespeare’s play and in his visions of Gruoch.
Costumes suit period depictions of Macbeth, and Macbeatha’s presence and appearance – with flowing grey locks and beard, and clothes appropriate to the 11th century – fill the tiny playing area impressively. Basic use is made of some grey steps, for a dramatic tableau, but there is a grey bench mostly unused and unnecessary. Lighting brings some atmosphere but was not always smoothly executed.
While there are mentions of historic names for Macbeth, his wife and her first husband, and a reference to a ‘blessing from Rome’, there is nothing of the true Macbeth made clear, let alone that his rule brought a rare – and lengthy – period of peace to Scotland, known as a golden age. There is nothing of Gruoch’s own royalty, merely an assertion re. personality that cannot actually be known.
Macbeth, Son of Light, includes some clever script editing that allows a very cut down version of Macbeth to work, though without due attention to lines. It does not, though, in any way fulfil its promise to “inspire audiences to consider the king in a new light”, unless people are driven to check out the historic Macbeth for themselves, purely out of frustration.
11 – 23 August (not 17), 16:05 (16:55) @ theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall