Review: Macbeth

LOTTIE UNWIN is unsurprised Macbeth does nothing to cheer her up.

Corpus Playrooms Lottie Unwin Macbeth Shakespeare Verity Clements Week Five

Tuesday 9th – Saturday 13th, 7.00, Corpus Playrooms, £5-6. Directed by Verity Clements.

Week Five blues is upon me with all the enthusiasm of clinical bi-polar.  The snow wasn’t pretty, but fucking cold, my bag full of books not a sign of my distinguished education, but fucking heavy and the fact that my date couldn’t make it, a cause for fucking heartbreak.  Macbeth at the Corpus Playrooms did absolutely nothing to shift this mood, spiralling me further into my cold, back aching, self-indulgent pit of foulness.

I am as sure of Shakespeare’s worth as the next essentially unquestioning English undergraduate, but while my supervisors aren’t in ear shot, I will confess there are things I would rather see at the theatre.  For it to entertain me, a level of talent so many leagues higher than what was displayed tonight is required.  In between lines the cast fell into a succession of ‘stock expressions’ – anxiety, fear and an awkward third state when neither of the prior two were appropriate.  The lines themselves were largely unconvincing recitals and only incredibly fleetingly did any performance come close to a transformation. For a while I held a torch for John Haidar’s low-key performance as Macduff but over time it emerged he didn’t really know how to turn it up.  The dry announcement to Macbeth that his wife is dead struck a chord, but my doubt that the actress could have delivered it any other way stopped it short.   Though Macbeth’s (Lawrence Dunn) vision of the dagger was entrancing, Lady Macbeth (Hannah Kennedy) occasionally on the ticket and Banquo (Mattin Biglari) did die agonisingly it was nowhere near enough.  Those big parts evidently require real, rather than minimal skill.  Especially at the start of Week Five.

The production on the whole failed to achieve even a scrap of professionalism with the very bare set, cut off Primark tracksuit costumes and, re-occurring topic I know, the poor standard of acting.  Director Verity Clements has some interesting ideas but they never really worked out – though the fight scene between Macbeth and Macduff was a highlight it felt like a historical reconstruction in a low budget tourist museum.  (I am sure I have heard the ‘dramatic’ music that muffled out of speakers in a hands-on exhibition about the Vikings once.)  The exception was the second appearance of the witches with their overlapping chanting and rhythmic drumming creating real atmosphere for the first and last time in the evening.

I don’t think there is hope the big cast will get better over the run, nor do I think you should go and see this but I do know that nothing but Peep Show, hot chocolate and bed could have impressed me when I walked into the theatre.  Given the circumstances, any production of Macbeth had no hope of my vote and so to give them the benefit of the doubt I have rounded a half star up.  Sorry for being such a grumpy bastard.