Review: Macbeth at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum

Review: Macbeth at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum, Dublin, October 3rd-26th, 2018, directed by Geoff O’Keefe

Review by Ema Vyroubalová, Trinity College Dublin.

This was an engaging and fast-paced production, notable particularly for its rendering of the Witches, intriguing choices of doubling, tripling, and even quadrupling of roles, as well as an imaginatively conceived yet also very functional stage set. Because the play opens with the three Witches on stage, how a particular director chooses to portray this trio helps set the tone of the rest of the production. O’Keefe’s Witches were dressed in loose black garbs and hooded capes, designed to enable the actors to see but to prevent others from seeing their faces. The effect of these costumes (designed by Olga Criado Monleon) was quite eerie, especially as it gradually became clear to us in the audience, from the changing voices and the varying statures of the black-clad figures, that the roles of the witches in different scenes were being rotated among different actors. A look in the programme indeed reveals that five of the nine cast members play a witch at some point: Shane Quigley Murphy is both a Witch and Lennox; Andrew Kenny, Matthew O’Brien, and Ailbhe Cowley are triple-cast as Witch/Banquo/Doctor, Witch/Malcolm/Murderer, and Witch/Ross/Gentlewoman respectively; and Eanna Hardwicke gets to be Witch/Captain/Fleance/Young Siward. I suspect that the bundling of parts was to some extent prompted by budgetary constraints and/or availability of actors. But the unusual implementation of this bundling in regards to the Witches presents these figures as ubiquitous forces that not only shape the play’s events but that also somehow emanate from the world of the play’s human protagonists rather than from a separate supernatural realm.

It is worth noting that the production avoided the more common double-casting of Lady Macbeth with one of the Witches—likely because it would have implied the kind of too specific pre-emptive power dynamic between the human and the supernatural worlds this production sought to steer clear of. The Witches appeared as silent characters in a number of scenes where Shakespeare’s playscript does not call for their presence. They hovered in the background or foreground, watching the others’ actions or enacting inscrutable ceremonies around the cauldron (which stood at the front of the stage for the whole duration of the performance) and over a miniature replica of a semi-derelict medieval castle hall (or perhaps the nave of a church?) (which was located near the right-hand stage exit). As they did so, they periodically emerged out of dark corners of the set only to blend back into them. This underscored the witches’ omnipresence in a very physical way, by literally keeping at least one of them on stage for the majority of the show. A Witch thus watches as Duncan receives Macbeth to give him the good news of his newly gained title; a different Witch listens as Lady Macbeth reads out the fateful letter from her husband and then observes from the background the meeting between the Macbeths. The resulting integration of the Witches into virtually every moment of the play, whether through the overlapping in the casting of the majority of the roles or their insertions into most scenes as silent figures, ironically makes it very difficult to hypothesize about their roles in the play’s moral universe. They can be seen as representing everything, anything, and nothing at the same time—similar to how the dark void of the colour black results from absorbing all frequencies of light.

The remaining double and triple casting choices would seem to confirm this production’s refusal to locate the source of evil in the play somewhere in the triangle of usual suspects constituted by Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the Witches. Jed Murray plays both MacDuff and one of the Murderers while Damien Devaney plays Duncan, Porter, and Seyton. Only the roles of Macbeth (Neill Fleming) and his wife (Nichola Macevilly) are spared from this production’s love affair with doubling and trebling of roles, which ultimately emphasises the couple’s isolation and self-consuming despair. The set, designed by Gerard Bourke, creatively utilised the whole available space both vertically and horizontally as it included tree trunks, rocks, and caverns that the actors could variously position themselves on, in, or under. The set also featured a human skeleton and a partially burnt cadaver ominously suspended above the stage and periodically lit (lighting design by Kris Mooney) so as to cast shadows on the actors and actions below. I was a little disappointed by the elimination of many of the passages from the so-called Hecate scenes, especially since the witches and their ever-present cauldron otherwise play such a central role in this production. Another slight disappointment was the beheading of Macbeth’s corpse at the very end of the production, which prompted confused laughter from a portion of the audience as the special effect looked rather cheap and came across as almost comical, which did not appear to be the production’s intention.

Review by Ema Vyroubalová, Trinity College Dublin.

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Henry Fuseli’s 19th c. painting of the three witches

 

“Macbeth” at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum

Mill Productions present one of Shakespeare’s most intense tragedies. Directed by Geoffrey O’Keeffe and featuring a talented professional cast, this is a traditional production, with genuinely gripping and often affecting performances which sharpen our understanding of Shakespeare’s analysis of human folly and strive to do justice to this greatest of plays.

Evening Performances: Wednesday 10th and Wednesday 24th October at 7.30pm – Tickets €18/€16

Contact the Box Office directly to book your school or group in – info@milltheatre.ie / 01-2969340. Play running time: 2hrs 30mins with a short interval.

School Performance times weekdays at 10am and 1.30pm. A Study Guide will accompany the production. Schools/teachers please see the website for details here.

 

 

 

Theatre: Macbeth, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin, 15 – 19 September 2019

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Tickets from €16 at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.

The ruined aftermath of a bloody civil war.  Ruthlessly fighting to survive, the Macbeths are thrust towards the crown by forces of elemental darkness.

The National Theatre, creators of War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, bring this epic and visually daring production of Shakespeare’s most intense tragedy on a tour of the UK and Ireland immediately following a sold-out run in London.

Directed by National Theatre Artistic Director Rufus Norris (Cabaret, London Road) and designed by Rae Smith (War Horse, This House) this new production propels Shakespeare’s classic title into a post-apocalyptic world of anarchy and uncertainty.

Theatre: “Macbeth” by Icarus Theatre Collective – touring now

[From Icarus Theatre’s Macbeth press release]

The vicious, barbaric undercurrent in Shakespeare’s fear-filled tragedy erupts in Icarus Theatre’s kinetic and blood-thirsty production. Unrivalled on the battlefield, Macbeth is rewarded with rank and favour by a grateful king but the war has left its scars. With each enemy Macbeth butchers, his lust for power takes a more menacing grip. Spectres slaughtered on the battlefield drip poison in his ear, and passions erupt as he ferociously seizes the throne. But, violence breeds violence, and a reign born in blood quickly spirals out of control as Macbeth’s demons return to destroy him.

Set in the 11th century and culminating in an epic battle filled with revenge, justice, and beheadings, Icarus Theatre blends the traditional and the physical to bring to life some of literature’s most vibrant language and characters.

This production centres around the idea that Macbeth himself is suffering from PTSD. Director Max Lewendel comments:

“War is hell, and medieval warfare even more so. There is something in the psychology of PTSD that resonates here in a very Hitchcockian kind of way. This world is a supernatural nightmare for Macbeth and I wanted to explore the idea that the horrors of what he has done and seen lurk in every shadow, in every corner.”

In addition to this new psychological element, many of the traditional male roles are here cast as female characters, stressing the importance of gender parity on stage. This is a patriarchal world, but one that is being challenged by powerful women pushing forward change.

For more information and to book tickets, see the Icarus Theatre Collective website here.

Lawrence Stubbings (Macbeth), James Heatlie (Banquo)

Lawrence Stubbings as Macbeth and James Heatlie as Banquo  [Image credit: George Riddell and Icarus Theatre]

Globe on Screen: Macbeth, Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, 11 October

The Shakespeare’s Globe production of Macbeth will be screened at the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday 11 October at 8pm. Tickets are €7.50/6.50 and can be booked at the theatre website.

From the website:

Macbeth

By William Shakespeare – Globe On Screen

Dir: Eve Best | 2014 | UK | 155 mins | Cert: PG | Language: English
Starring: Moyo Akandé, Geoff Aymer, Bette Bourne, Stuart Bowman, Billy Boyd, Jonathan Chambers, Philip Cumbus, Gawn Grainger, Harry Hepple, Joseph Millson, Jess Murphy, Colin Ryan, Cat Simmons, Samantha Spiro, Finty Williams
“superb fresh-minted performances” ★★★★ The Telegraph
“a chilling, compellingly twisted sense of the absurd” ★★★★ Sunday Telegraph
“marvellous” The Observer
When three witches tell Macbeth that he is destined to occupy the throne of Scotland, he and his wife choose to become the instruments of their fate and to kill the first man standing in their path, the virtuous King Duncan. But to maintain his position, Macbeth must keep on killing – first Banquo, his old comrade-in-arms; then, as the atmosphere of guilt and paranoia thickens, anyone who seems to threaten his tyrant’s crown.
From its mesmerising first moments to the last fulfilment of the witches’ prophecy, Shakespeare’s gripping account of the profoundest engagement with the forces of evil enthrals the imagination.
Please Note:
Duration: 155 mins incl. 15 min interval