Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Venue: Bard on the Beach
Shakespeare Festival under the Tents in Vanier Park
Reviewer: Jane Penistan
Director Moira Wylie Set design Yvan Morissette Costume design Mara Gottler Sound design /Composer Noah Drew Lighting design Gerald King Fight director Nicholas Harrison Stage Manager Joanne P.B. Smith
Unique and unusual sets are presented in the Douglas Campbell Studio Theatre. This year Macbeth is mounted before a quasi nineteenth-century painted backdrop, from whose high, central, curtained opening stairs descend to a bare, tiered, rectangular stage. Gerald King's lighting transforms these from eerie moorland to sunlit courtyard or banqueting hall. The flow of the play is almost never interrupted by properties being carried on or off stage.
Noah Drew's music and soundscape enhance all the changing locations of the action, either the martial drumbeats of soldiers or the rhythmic dance of the prelude to the banquet, or the sweet birds' song at the arrival of Duncan at Macbeth's castle.
Mara Gottler's costumes are timeless. There is a strong suggestion of military domination in the heavy boots and battle dress trousers worn by the men. Their loyalties are indicated by distinguishing baldrics. The women are sombrely clothed in long dresses in unobtrusive colours. The witches’ masks make them impersonal and apart from the wholly all-too-human characters of the rest of the cast.
On the uncluttered space, a dozen actors play twice as many roles. The black cloaked, masked witches vanish and become Lady Macbeth, Lady Macduff or a waiting gentlewoman.
Majestic as Duncan, enthroned at the top of the staircase, Douglas Campbell is regal and imposing. As the porter, he revels with us in the earthy humour of the only lighthearted scene Shakespeare allows in this dark tragedy. Later, Campbell is the wise experienced Siward, his presence and counsel bringing assurance to Malcolm's invading army.
Donald Adams' Macbeth begins as a successful soldier who finds himself suddenly heaped with unsought honours, which accord with the prophecies of the uncanny weird sisters. His ambition to become king is tempered by his inherent loyalty to his monarch and his already failing moral rectitude. This makes Macbeth an unwilling villain until he is urged on to evil deeds by his iron- willed wife. As the wavering, conscience- stricken Macbeth, Adams is believable, but as the tyrannical brutal warlord, he is not as successful.
Lady Macbeth (Hilary Strang) never becomes the strong- willed, driving woman expected from the text.
Paul Moniz de Sa is a commanding figure as Banquo. His presence tends to dominate, either as Macbeth's comrade or later as the doctor witnessing Lady Macbeth sleepwalking. His ghostly apparition appearing and vanishing in the banquet scene is skillfully managed.
Torquil Campbell is excellent as Malcolm. He develops from a desperate, bereaved young man into a real leader, and makes his long difficult scene with Macduff interesting and convincing. As Macduff, Todd Thomson is not yet comfortable in this role. He lacks warmth and the passion demanded by Shakespeare.
The three weird sisters are mortal but mysterious, managing to appear not quite of this world. Their disappearances are magical and their presence in the banquet scene is sinister and haunting.
The apparition of a witch flourishing a dagger in front of Macbeth as he "screws his courage to the sticking place" is a masterly touch on the part of Moira Wylie. She directs this production with a sure hand and is unafraid of using the magic of theatre to leave the audience pondering the good and evil in this play and their all too relevant parallels prevalent in the present day.
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's best known works, subject to many different interpretations. This production is an intriguing and interesting one and will become even more haunting and thought-provoking as the season progresses.
The Douglas Campbell Studio Stage always surprises with its courageous and unusual presentations. This one is no exception.
Macbeth runs at the Douglas Campbell Studio Theatre, Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival under the tents in Vanier Park, 26 June - 23 September, 2004 at 8.00 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 7.00 p.m. Sunday and 4.00 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. Saturday, until September 5. After this date performances will be at 7 .00 p.m. Sunday and Thursday -Saturday, with matinees at 1.00 p.m. on selected days. For information about this and other productions, special events, reservations and tickets call the Festival Box Office at 604-739-0559 or visit www.bardonthe beach.org
© 2004, Jane Penistan