When I found out that I was to review Theatre Group’s Macbeth I was excited but also a little nervous. In my experience, amateur Shakespeare goes very much one of two ways and, whilst I had faith in the cast, I could not entirely shake my misgivings. It is an absolute pleasure for me to able to say that I never should have worried – the production is a mature, well-acted piece which provides a strong start to the group’s 2012-3 programme.
Shakespeare’s works lend themselves very nicely to a stripped-back interpretation and the fairly bare set used by Theatre Group was a good example of this. Complemented by intelligent and thoughtful lighting design which featured particularly effective use of strobes, this traditional staging beautifully foregrounded the script and performances of the cast above all else. Use of accompanying music was appropriate and effective although could perhaps have been extended to cover scenery changes or the exits of dead characters which were not as quiet as they perhaps should have been if my disbelief was to be maintained. A sliding door made an interesting additional entrance for certain key moments but was unfortunately also disruptively loud at times.
Acting performances were strong across the board from the very beginning with the witches providing a strong dramatic opening to the show. The portrayal of desperation and lack of control could very easily have appeared cheesy and over-done but instead were handled masterfully by all concerned. In addition to this, the decision on the part of the directors to repeat the scene with Banquo’s ghost after the interval without the character of the ghost on stage was innovative and interesting – I had never seen this before but would certainly welcome it in future productions. Principal roles were particularly well performed. Cam Bevan triumphantly guided the audience through the twists and turns of the title character portraying a wide range of emotions and showing himself to be more than strong enough to lead the cast. Emma Real-Davies’ Lady Macbeth provided the perfect counterpart – not only did she manage to deliver the harsh complexities of the character, she also succeeded in showcasing an impressive vulnerability as the play progressed.
I spoke to society president and director Alex Bray about what the huge undertaking of tackling not only one but two Shakespeare plays in this year’s programme meant for Theatre Group as a society: ‘Shakespeare is an actor’s staple and his plays provide some of the most dynamic and challenging characters ever written. We are hoping to put on an exhilarating, visceral production of Macbeth and, later, a laugh out loud Comedy of Errors performance.’ It is clear to me that the first of these hopes has certainly come to pass… roll on the second.
4/5 – Theatre Group use their first show of the year to prove that they mean business.
Macbeth is running nightly at 7.30pm at The Annex Theatre until Saturday 3rd November. Tickets can be bought here.