Sunday, September 15, 2013

Theatre: Macbeth

by William Shakespeare
 Class Act
Directed by Stephen Lee
With Nick Maclaine, Rhoda Lopez, Angelique Malcolm, Shirley Van Sanden, Kyle Sargon, Daniel Buckle, Stephen Lee and Patrick Whitelaw
Subiaco Arts Centre Studio
Until September 14; then in schools

When you watch Shakespeare performed for students, the immortal power of his language most impresses you: “one fell swoop”, “the milk of human kindness” and the “poison’d chalice”, everything that follows that “damned spot” and “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” all come from Macbeth.
Class Act has produced an unpatronising, economical Macbeth for high school students. If its audience (which, by the way, was immaculately attentive throughout the performance I saw) can take these words and ideas away with it, and know from whence they came, that’s a treasure beyond reckoning.

Director Stephen Lee understands this, and his cast’s delivery was impressively clear-cut and measured throughout.
Much credit for this goes to the intelligent Nick Maclaine and Perth’s current leading lady, Rhoda Lopez, as the murderous Macbeths, who have half the play’s lines and deliver them all well. They get good support from the rest of the cast, especially Daniel Buckle, whose Porter provides the only relief from the play’s juggernaut of slaughter.
Slaughter is expensive to put on stage, and, as a result, this is a somewhat anaemic Macbeth. I’m sure it wasn’t from squeamishness on the producer’s behalf.
Maclaine’s Macbeth doesn’t seem quite the man to open up an enemy from “the nave to th’ chops”, that is, from the navel to the jaw, as, with his sword “smok’d with bloody execution”, Shakespeare says he does.
The massacre of Lady Macduff and her “pretty chickens” takes place at the other end of a phone line (the play has a modern, corporate setting that, wisely, isn’t over-emphasised) rather than in the sort of flesh-and-blood frenzy that Roman Polanski gave it in his Manson-haunted 1971 film.
The most glaring compromise is the dispatch of Macbeth by an anonymous sniper, rather than at the hands of the C-section-delivered Macduff as the text explicitly demands.
For all that, this is a worthwhile Macbeth for those who go to Shakespeare to enjoy, and a very good one for those who go to him to learn. 

This review appeared in The West Australian 14.9.13    

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