CUETG’s Macbeth: Review

JESS LIM finds Macbeth a strong and enjoyable production, though not without flaws which prevent it from being great

ADC Cambridge CUETG etg Macbeth Shakespeare tour

CUETG’s production of Macbeth is a subdued interpretation that forces the audience to focus on the psychological aspects of the play. This is evident, from the restrained performances of the cast to the deliberate sparseness of the set. The lighting in particular sets the tone for each scene well, contrasting the living and the dead characters and creating a chilling atmosphere.

Oooh spooky.

Oooh spooky.

The entire cast deserves strong commendation for their outstanding physicality– right from the outset, the constant writhing of the three witches bring the world of the play to life. The disturbing fluidity of the witches’ movements and the astute decision to have them play the servants worked well. Equally impressive is Guy Clark’s ghostly Banquo, whose stilted corpse performance believably unnerves Macbeth. The excellent physicality culminates in an exciting sword-fight, very well choreographed by Bea Svistunenko and Robbie Taylor Hunt in the second act.

The fight choreography was very impressive

The fight choreography was very impressive

Tom Russell and Laura Waldren have convincing chemistry as the power couple of this Shakespearean drama and their scenes together are strong, which renders Waldren’s weaker portrayal of Lady Macbeth in her key “Out, damned spot” scene in the second act all the more disappointing. Russell’s Macbeth starts out as subtle – almost unconvincing in his credibility as a man of action without his wife around – but he steadily murders and hallucinates his way into an empathetic character as the play progresses.

Laura Waldren and Tom Russell as the Macbeths

Laura Waldren and Tom Russell as the Macbeths

Also worthy of mention are Clark’s Banquo and Will Bishop’s Duncan, doctor and murderer, for both actors serve as great foils to their counterparts on stage such that group scenes are all the better for their presence. Bishop’s ability to slip into three distinct characters in the short running time will delight, as well as Julia Kass’s individual scene as a witch, in which she infuses her lines with a rhythmic inflection that stands out from the rather more traditional, stiffer delivery of the rest of the cast.

This production’s greatest weakness was in pacing, which undermined the emotional effectiveness of key scenes. Act One hastily speeds through key plot points, which builds up the audience’s expectations to a good climax at the interval, but unfortunately didn’t allow such character development. Act Two then slows down palpably to the detriment of the play and scenes become too long. Also problematic is the overenthusiastic use of dry ice, which sometimes obscured the stage and the ability of the front rows to concentrate without choking.

Macbeth is full of subtly brilliant moments – watch out for the little gestures and tonal inflections – but for a play that’s ending its run, the sum of its parts somewhat disappoints. However, overall it does deliver, and scores a well-deserved 65%, a strong 2.1.