Bard on the Beach – Macbeth – a review

Bard on the Beach



As patrons arrive at Bard on the Beach, they are invited to “In a Nutshell”, where they hear a short synopsis and learn some interesting facts about the play they are about to see.

The audience awaiting the production of Macbeth learns that the play is famous not only for being one of Shakespeare’s most powerful tragedies, but also for having engendered the most superstitions. There is a belief that a curse plagues Macbeth and that disaster can occur easily. Some actors refer to it only as “The Scottish Play”, and do not actually say the word “Macbeth” until it is required during the play. Others will not quote lines from the drama, especially the weird sisters’ prophesies.

Director Chris Abraham does a masterful job of creating and maintaining that sense of menace and foreboding from the first scene until the last. The action opens with a fight and the appearance of one of the weird sisters, whose heartrending screams permeate the theatre until, at last, she is joined by the other two (Emma Slipp, Kate Besworth and Harveen Sandhu), who begin an ominous conversation with one another. They meet Macbeth (Ben Carlson) and tell him that the king is going to name him the Thane of Cawdor and that, eventually, he will be king, vanishing into thin air to the sound of the kettle drum.

Soon after, King Duncan (Scott Bellis) arrives, appoints Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor and arranges to celebrate at Macbeth’s home. Lady Macbeth (Moya O’Connell) receives a letter outlining her husband’s good fortune and begins to devise a plan to kill Duncan so that Macbeth can become king. At first, he demurs, but she is strong, single minded and oozes wickedness from every pore. Macbeth remains conflicted; however, he eventually agrees, kills Duncan and becomes king.

In so doing, he sets in motion a previously untapped ruthlessness and greed, prompting the killing of many others, including Banquo (Craig Erickson), one of his closest allies. Macbeth blames others for the murders and is believed for a time, but his brutality is becoming evident to many in the royal court. In conversation with Macduff (Andrew Wheeler), Duncan’s son Malcolm (Jeff Gladstone) says of Macbeth, “I grant him bloody, luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin which has a name…” In fact, Malcolm is actually testing Macduff to ensure his loyalty to Scotland, but the description of Macbeth’s character is accurate.

Lady Macbeth takes leave of her senses, sleepwalking, hallucinating and endlessly rubbing her hands together while muttering “out, damned spot”. Macbeth orders the doctor (Scott Bellis) to cure her, but the doctor says she has to cure herself. Shortly thereafter, she dies and a despairing Macbeth reflects on his belief that life signifies nothing.

The final battle takes place shortly thereafter. Macbeth is killed by Macduff, Malcolm is crowned king and immediately begins to make plans to heal Scotland and bring back all those who have been in exile. The witches make a last appearance, closing the doors.

The intensity never wanes in this excellent production. Lighting and music add depth to an unsettling atmosphere which always feels just a moment away from another atrocity. Most of the costumes are grayish and the set is functional, but sparse, another contribution to the unfolding of the tragedy. Theatre lovers should not be swayed by superstition, and are encouraged to attend Bard on the Beach’s “Macbeth” this season., which runs from June 6 – September 22, 2018.

Article – Judy Robb

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