‘Full of sound and fury’ Aberdeen Berry
Hart House Theatre’s latest adaptation of Macbeth, directed by Jeremy Hutton, opened its curtains on Wednesday, November 9. The show is marked by well-designed and versatile scenery, stylish costumes, and more-than-adequate use of strobe lights. Imagined as an almost Wagnerian drama, and acted in a style reminiscent of Orson Welles, Hutton’s Macbeth is undoubtedly a thrilling piece.

With an evident dedication to well-conceived production values, special effects including coloured lights, fog, sound, and mobile set pieces are incorporated for maximum effect. The disruption of natural order as a dominant theme comes through in Hutton’s emphasis on these stylistic production elements.

In the banquet scene where Macbeth believes he is seeing Banquo’s ghost, special effects underscore the main action and create a sense of heightened emotional tension. At times, however, these trappings threaten to overwhelm the actors. For instance, when Macbeth returns to the witches and demands to be given further prophecies, the scenes are permeated by an overly effect-laden (and almost incomprehensible) voice, which gives a campy quality to the overall performance.

William Foley and Jackie Rowland play the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively; however Rowland is the standout actor in the show. Rowland’s first monologue is particularly impressive; however her onstage chemistry with Foley was inconsistent, despite Hutton’s emphasis on the sensuality of the couple.

Foley’s performance effectively portrayed Macbeth as a sympathetic everyman, caught up in matters beyond his control. Unfortunately, for both actors’ character arcs were limited by the show’s tendency to present an ever-increasing crescendo of madness. However, the stylistic emphasis on madness is effective for the three witches, who are gleefully wicked figures. During Act II, Macbeth and the other players rage across the stage, roaring and grunting and spilling blood, which signify their insanity.

A lack of subtlety was apparent in the incessant droning of the theme music behind almost every monologue. Clearly, there was an effort to convey that something unpleasant and unnatural was afoot. These musical moments often gave way to beautifully choreographed sword fights, one of the few things the director really seemed to relish in this production. In the case of the showdown between Macbeth and Macduff, the music seemed almost an afterthought to a feast of on-stage gore and athleticism.

Given the attention to special effects and theatrics, it appeared that what Hutton truly wanted to do was produce a film version of Macbeth (Braveheart?). While the acting was commendable, this production unfortunately runs the risk of being a tale “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: Shakespeare’s Macbeth gets the special (effect) treatment
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