Pros: Andrew Venning’s performance as Macbeth is chilling, complex and rich, with an expert handling of verse.
Cons: Some dodgy diction, volume problems and odd choices fudge this fascinating text at times.
One of my earliest theatrical memories is seeing Macbeth at The Globe (A quick Google tells me this was 2001 and I was ten). I’m sure I saw pantos and the like when I was younger but this production made me fall in love with theatre and I remember being absolutely floored by Eve Best as Lady Macbeth. So you could say I have a special attachment to the Scottish Play. Though it’s since been replaced by Dream and Titus as my favourite Shakespeare, it still fascinates me as a theatrical text with some wonderfully meaty and complex roles for actors to sink their teeth into.
The LOST Theatre in Lambeth, home of the rapidly growing Five Minute and One Act Festivals, is a great space for any show, with its split-levels and surrounding balcony. The production made great use of the theatre’s individual features, presenting some striking visual images like Macbeth going back to his wife in their bedroom, his hands bloody from killing the King.
The LOST auditorium does present its own challenges as it dwarfs most fringe theatres; filling it with people or voice becomes a difficult task. Whilst some actors, like the more than able lead Venning, rise to the challenge, projecting like a champ and giving weight to each line, others struggle with both the verse and the volume.
There are other notable performances though; Lawrence Boothman’s Banquo is engaging and shows a skillful handling of the text. Tony Eccles provides an excellent and welcome comic turn as the lude and drunken Porter and Ethan Chapples’s Madcuff is also very watchable but as any Shakespeare fan will know, even in an unedited version, Macduff disappears for the length of a bible.
Normally Macduff’s absence doesn’t feel significant as there’s a wealth of other interesting characters, with the increasingly unstable Macbeth – a breakdown measured perfectly by Venning – as well as the mysterious witches and the power crazy Lady Macbeth. However, the depths of the female characters never felt like they were truly explored in this production with the ‘three sisters’ played like hysterical, naughty schoolgirls and Lady Macbeth maligned to a mousy, out-of-her-depth prop to her husband’s journey. Sure, not everyone interprets Shakespeare in the same way, that’s the beauty of it and the reason his work still fascinates us all these centuries later. Nevertheless, the choices made in this piece felt like the least interesting direction to take these characters in.
These missteps aside, there is enough talent about this show to make it worth a trip. I would highly recommend catching leading man Andrew Venning’s performance, at the very least you can say you saw him before he hit the big time – if there’s any justice in the world that is.
Author: William Shakespeare
Director/Designer: David Shopland
Producer: David Shopland
Lighting Design: Nic Farman
Booking Until: 1 March 2015
Box Office: 0207 720 6897
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/74121