Sunday, 29 April 2012

'Macbeth' at the Sydney Opera House

Bell Shakespeare's production of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' at the Drama Theatre maintains the original language and arrangement of the play but deep down it was not true to an Elizabethan production. Directed by Peter Evans, it extracts the mysterious and obscure aspects but instead of superstition, the character's motives focused more on their psychology. The performance space was a postmodern ambiguous outdoor set, which allowed for plenty of movement around the stage, and the actors' presences were quite dynamic. A glass ceiling tilted towards the audience highlighted the play's exploration of individual tremor- the blurred lines between dark and light, male and female, moral and immoral.

At the start of the performance Dan Spielman as Macbeth seemed to have a weak stage presence, or at least deliver the lines without any extra conviction. However as his character's conscience made a turn for the worse, Spielman harnessed the overwhelming guilt for a representation of a man at once both weakened and energised by mad frenzy. Blood was aplenty, with Macbeth's victims returning on stage to haunt him, dripping consciously with in a gory wet red. Spielman's partner, Kate Mulvany, played a convincing Lady Macbeth and embodied the manipulative, androgynous and erotic wife. Soliloquies from the remorseful leads proved to be a highlight in the adaptation- with each character indulging in their moment in the spotlight. The language was audible in the close setting but often too much deliberating over archaic language stopped the natural flow of the narrative performance.

The only aspect which was a complete mystery to me was the female witch (Lizzie Schebesta) who appeared as both a slaughtered child, messenger boy and young soldier. She appeared to bring elements of the tortured cryptic witch (replacing the original three witches which appear in Shakespeare's play) into her various characters which disrupted the illusion of a flowing story. At times it was hard to get lost in the narrative as there were moments of disjoint, especially as the characters left from the stage, making it clear that they were doing so and leaving a scene unfinished or abruptly did not help.

With eerie sound effects and contemporary strings, the audience was sure to get the feeling of a classic play filled with horrific tragedy. Costume was selected minimally, with a contemporary twist on heavy, overbearing traditional wear. Overall, Evans has presented an interesting adaptation on a play about morality, full of life's questions- and resorted to answer none of them. A mysterious, yet provoking piece, it is not the most comprehensive Shakespeare but a dark, psychological work evolves on stage into a subconscious nightmare. 

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