Entering the Rose Playhouse performance space is like entering a dystopian novel: wide open spaces, low ceilings, and a suspiciously large pool of water. The aesthetics of the place can’t be beaten; it was absolutely right that Macbeth should be staged there. It happened that there was a dual perspective to the performance; the group scenes all happened at the back of the set (those acoustics! The voices reverberated around the room like we were in the Roman Coliseum) and the intimate scenes took place at our feet. Literally, at one point I almost tripped someone over.
There was an effortless fluidity with each of the cast members. They knew how to work with and around one another in a space that couldn’t have been easy to manoeuvre; an impressive feat by its own rights. It wasn’t well-lit in there so it can’t have come naturally to the cast.
Standout performances firstly have to go to Robert Madeley as Porter. His Jack Sparrow-esque attitude kept me giggling; the dual role that he plays also shows his flexibility as an actor. But I have to commend Orla Jackson as Lady Macbeth. As the only female in the entire production I completely applaud her; lesser actresses may have been drowned out by the male roar but she holds her own, kicking and screaming, teeth and claws unsheathed. Deliciously creepy.
Benjamin Blyth as Macbeth provided us with his own portrayal of the unambitious king. Something that stuck out in my mind is when he was quivering under the table having seen Banquo’s ghost; the lack of speech was so effective. Because it’s so text heavy, you’re listening to the words and how they sound as well as their meaning, and that brief pause gave the audience a well-needed breather.
Casting the witches as male is a big directorial decision and visually, it worked; however, the point of the witches is that they’re representative of a supernatural element of society, commonly attributed to femininity. So while it was effective, and the actors played their parts well, it’s unclear if it was entirely in line with the Bard’s intentions. But that’s artistic license for you.
Overall, an absolute gem and I really enjoyed myself for the full 90 minutes. But don’t say the play’s name if you’re rehearsing; you’re likely to get a cast of actors rugby tackle you.
Macbeth is playing at The Rose Playhouse until 30 May. For tickets and more information, see The Rose Playhouse website.