November 29 and 30 performances
When we arrived at the Albery there was a class of school children waiting outside and the foyer was already very crowded. The doors to the stalls were only opened a couple of minutes after 7 p.m. We waited impatiently and did get even more excited when we finally were allowed to take our seats. My friend Drea was in the first row, the third seat from the left and I was in second row, third seat from the right. Each of us bought two programs, one to keep and one for friends and while Drea skipped through it a bit while waiting for the show to start, I didn't have the nerves to look at it right now. 7.30 passed and still people were talking loudly.
BANG! Cracking thunder. People were shrieking and the lights went out. Though I knew that it would start like this I still was startled. And there they were - through the black tulle-like curtain we could see the three beautiful witches standing around a fire and eventually mysteriously singing and dancing. When they had disappeared MacBeth came onstage. He was walking straight towards the audience. Oooohhh, Sean that close to me, breathing the same air as I did! I had to bite my lip to stop me from grinning constantly. The curtain was lifted and suddenly we were on a battle ground, soldiers were fighting, kicking and killing each other. I had never seen swordfighting on stage before and it looked and sounded alarmingly real and dangerous to me! Now I was right in this world, never did I wonder when or where the action was meant to take place and I suppose it is intended to make you think that what you are going to see can happen anywhere anytime. The setting is perfect. It gives you everything you need to see and still leaves room enough for your imagination.
Though it stays the same throughout the whole play it easily changes from battlefield to bedroom to the outside of a castle to a hall within the same and so on, only by adding or taking away a bed, chairs, tables or simply by the gesture of an actor. I liked the costumes, too. Some people commented that they did not understand why MacBeth is constantly changing clothes. I think, it is very logic. Not only is it a way of showing the time that has passed between one scene and the next and also the simple fact that one would wear different oufits in battle and at a banquet for example (esp. as a noble man), but it is also reflecting MacBeth's state of mind and heart, to a certain degree. The lighting and sound effects belong to the best I have ever experienced in a theatre. There are a couple of moments that I can remember where the effects were used very obviously, the shocking start, the appearance of the eight kings to MacBeth or the shooting into the audience during the last battle, to name a few. But very often those effects are used in a more subtle way, almost applying to the subconsious only. But all of the above, setting, costumes, sound and lighting never crush the performances of any of the cast, but support them beautifully.
As MacBeth Sean Bean gives everything that we love him for: strength, tenderness, passion, ambition, pride, doubt, fear, arrogance, torment, vulnerability, madness and (once again) a very believable dying scene. His Lady M. is just as strong. Samantha Bond succeeds in drawing the attention of someone who thought she would only have eyes for Sean Bean on her character. As does Banquo. I don't know where the picture I had in my mind of Banquo did come from. What I do know, though, is that Barnaby Kay does not match this image in any way: he is too young, too blond, not tall enough. Yet, he IS the perfect Banquo! Julian Glover's Duncan is good, but his Porter is unforgettable. And though Mark Bazeley gives a solid performance in every scene he is in, he is heartrendering convincing in the scene where MacDuff learns of the assassination of his family. I don't remember reading something about Tam Williams anywhere. I think, his portrayal of Donalbain was very good. His reaction after hearing of his father's murder was outstanding. He was standing there, alone, hands wringing, totally lost, despairing, utterly confused about this unimagineable deed, close to tears (or even crying?) and so much in need of the embrace his brother Malcolm gives him at the end of the scene. I must confess, though, that I got a little confused later when he reappeared as someone else's son. I did not like Malcolm. I guess this means that Adrian Schiller has done his job well, too. I was very impressed by the child-actors, they appeared very natural and child-like, not in any way affected.
I have re-read the play by now and noticed
where Edward Hall gave lines to other characters, cut whole scenes
or even changed the order slightly. I think it works very well
that way. I cannot understand anyone who claims
this production of MacBeth is a disappointment. I am sure there
are other ways of bringing 'The Scottish Play' to life. But, though
you can do it differently, you can hardly do it better.
Following the evening performance on November 30th, actor Julian Glover gave a speech about AIDS and made an appeal for donations. Two pictures of the cast onstage during that speech are below. Click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures.
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