by William Shakespeare
WAAPA 3rd Year acting students
Roundhouse Theatre, ECU Mt Lawley
Until 16 October
Whether it’s in anticipation of the looming 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, or a reflex action in response to the real-life slaughter of the innocents with which we are constantly assailed, there’s a lot of Macbeth about these days.
Which is no bad thing for admirers of this most efficient of Shakespeare’s killing machines. It's barely half the length of Hamlet, but is pound-for-pound, and by a very great margin, the most poetic of his great tragedies.
Then there's the dark unreality, the hallucinogenic quality, of Dunsinane and the charnel house made there by its lord and lady.
And there is also some of Shakespeare’s greatest contributions to the language, from “fell swoop” to “screw up courage”, from “double, double, toil and trouble” to “out, damned spot”, reaching its apogee in Macbeth’s great hymn of nihilism, “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…”.
…Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
If that doesn't make you shudder, even four centuries leter, you need to take a good, hard look inside yourself.
It’s all heady stuff for a student cast, even one as talented and anticipated as this year’s graduating WAAPA acting students. If they fall a little short – as they do – it’s only through lack of developed personality, but not either the technique or charisma they will need to acquire it.
Andrew Lewis directs this Macbeth, in Ashliegh Hodges’ spare set, with purpose and without flamboyance. If it’s surprising how little blood the old play has in it this time, that supports his intention, both as a director and teacher, because nothing is allowed to distract from the actors, and their reading of the text.
And it’s that stupendous torrent of words that most challenges the cast. There’s a sense, especially early, of keeping up with the words rather than using them to reveal the human personality of the characters. That leaves the descent into hell of the Macbeths and those in their orbit occasionally unconvincing. But this is a temporary failing; they’ll grow into their characters as they grow into their craft.
That omission aside, Benjamin Kindon’s Macbeth was muscular and dangerous; dangerous too was Shalom Brune-Franklin’s Lady Macbeth, even if her madness seemed abrupt and unprepared. Amongst the nobles, Dacre Montgomery’s Banquo and Jessica Paterson’s Malcolm were particularly impressive, while Harriet Gordon-Anderson’s magnetic weird sister and the extraordinary Megan Wilding’s porter felt the most assured of all the performances.
This graduating class has delivered an impressive programme through the year, bannered by their memorable All My Sons and Will O’Mahoney’s audacious The Mars Project. Their Playboy of the Western World, and this Macbeth, were strong additions to the season. (I was in post-festival rehab and missed their much-praised Pride and Prejudice).
These WAAPA seasons are a great gift to the community, on top of the world-class training it gives our next generation of fine performing artists. Go see them next year - they will appreciate, and reward, your support.