Saturday, 13 August 2016

Macbeth, Canberra Repertory

Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy gets a fast-moving and stripped-for-action production here. Jordan Best has got to be using some form of witchery to handle so well a large cast and complex text in a production of such directness and clarity of purpose. Michael Spark's deceptively simple set allows fast movement, sudden appearances and presents a space for widely varying stage pictures. Heather Spong's costume designs give a basic approach that could be tightened a little (in particular, the men's basic blacks could be consistent rather than such a widely varied set) but otherwise has the right idea in terms of simplicity and labelling the cast easily in multiple roles.

First among a strong cast are the Macbeths - Chris Zuber plays the journey as a good soldier becomes a maddened tyrant with the promise and assumption of power, his difficult journey towards becoming a murderer eased with the persuasion of his eager wife, Jenna Roberts. The instant regret both feel after committing murder is palpable, as is the disintegration of their formerly close and seductive relationship as the rot sets in (the image of them going their separate ways is heartbreaking just before interval). The donning of kings's robes and a crown let Zuber unleash some rather magnificent hair and gives him the image of a bestial lion, but much that was human about him disappears under the weight of the acts he has committed to get power. Roberts' disintegration into madness is heartbreaking - her formerly-determined self now damaged beyond repair.

There's too many names to talk about all individually in a 23-strong ensemble, but there are images that stick in the memory like the disturbing hand movements of the witches, isolated against their black robes; the reactions of the attendees at the disintegrating bloody banquet; the touching short story as Lady Macduff tries to disown her husand only to see him still doom her; the ragefull Macduff ready for righteous avenging; the wild clowning of the Porter; the every-inch-a-king-ness of Duncan; the young Malcom resisting and eventually answering the call of his rightful kingship; Hecate's act-two-opening-rage at her coven... oh, pretty much the whole two and a half hours.

This is major theatre by a major director with a major cast. You should not miss this.

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