Friday, 8 June 2012

Macbeth, Bell Shakespeare, June 7, 2012

By William Shakespeare
Bell Shakespeare Company
Playhouse, Melbourne Arts Centre, June 7 to 23, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 7, 2012
Stars:  ***
 Dan Spielman & Lizzie Schebesta, Macbeth, Bell Shakespeare

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the title character murders his King, driven by his insatiable desire for unbridled power that is fuelled by the witches’ prophesy and by his ambitious wife’s goading.

Peter Evans’ production of The Scottish Play strangely lacks the overwhelming sense of menace and horror essential to this play.

He overlays stylised, slow motion movement (reminiscent of Japanese Butoh) that distracts the eye and interrupts the narrative, rather than illuminating Macbeth’s inexorable journey into violence.

Dan Spielman’s Macbeth begins as an ordinary man returning from the battlefield, but gradually morphs into a crouching, contorted, grimacing, spidery creature with a bloodlust.

However, Spielman’s permanent, half-crouching position weakens the character’s physical presence and his vocal delivery reduces the dynamic energy of the poetry, leaving Macbeth with a less than palpable power.

Spielman is a capable and interesting actor but is miscast in this role and would perhaps be better suited to playing a feisty, young Malcolm.

Kate Mulvany is a passionate Lady Macbeth who burns like a hot flame initially, manipulating her mercurial husband with her sexuality then emasculating him with her harping criticism.

Mulvany enlivens Shakespeare’s famous speeches, particularly in the first half, and her early scenes with Spielman resemble prowling tigers circling each other before they pounce.

Unfortunately, where Shakespeare’s script is bloody and dangerous, this production is anaemic. It lacks real emotion, menace or genuine connection to the meaning of the text, and does not fulfil the promise inherent in the play.

Rather than using three haggard, old witches, Evans casts a single, pretty, young witch (Lizzie Schebesta) who speaks with multiple voices, channelling the occult as if a clairvoyant, but this concept fails to effectively deliver the witches’ prophesy.

The opening, ghostly image of the witch on the reflective ceiling is eerie and powerful and could have been reintroduced later in the play.

Anna Cordingley’s arid, grassy design, reflected in a mirrored ceiling and lit atmospherically by Damien Cooper, conjures elements of the barren, Scottish heath, but does not serve the story and its themes for the entire play.

There are some capable performances from the cast, but Evans’ interpretation, which favours style over content, is so stylised that it misses the essential turbulent, frenzied descent into hell and bloodshed that is Macbeth.

By Kate Herbert 

Director: Peter Evans
Dramaturg: Kate Mulvany
Designer: Anna Cordingly
Lighting: Damien Cooper
Composition: Kelly Ryall

Macduff: Ivan Donato
Duncan: Colin Moody
Banquo: Gareth Reeves
Lady Macduff: Katie-Jean Harding
Malcolm: Robert Jago 
Lennox: Paul Reichstein
Witch: Lizzie Schebesta 
Ross: Hazem Shammas
Angus: Jason Chong 

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