Opening to the sound of Zadoc the Priest, a coronation procession winds its way around the stage in perfect synchronisation. This is the first of three coronations similarly staged but each has a different feel according to the character and reaction of the new sovereign. Watch out for Macbeth’s cheeky wink.
The ten-strong ensemble cast provide solid performances all round. The all-male weird sisters of David Clayton, Cameron Nelson and Hamish Somers do a good job of being ‘weird’. I particularly liked the way the witches’ song in Act IV is presented, done in unison and wearing gas masks. Jamie O’Neill seemed to relax into his Macbeth as the play progressed, coming fully into his own by the second half. But the standout performance is Alice Emery’s Lady Macbeth, oozing ruthless ambition and scheming manipulation. It was a pity that her sleepwalking performance happened right at the back of the stage.
Characters frequently address the audience directly; applause is expected for Malcolm (Fred Thomas) when appointed Prince of Cumberland. The whole of the theatre’s space, aisles included, is used, contributing to a sense of involvement (without actually having to participate). And whilst this use of space helped to create a sense of action and chaos, it also meant that, on occasion, some characters had their backs to the audience. The result of which was at times a difficulty in hearing dialogue. Furthermore, there was also a tendency towards a rushed delivery. I’m sure most audiences will be very familiar with the story, but I doubt the majority know the play by heart so it’s disappointing to miss any of the Bard’s text.
The little snippets of humour scattered here and there help to temporarily rein in (no pun intended) the onward momentum of bloody events, momentum which gained even more impetus later on.
Alex Musgrave’s excellent lighting, including torches, blackouts and up-lighting, combined with the equally excellent choice of music and sound effects, created a very atmospheric space. The programme also hinted at the use of smell, but if this was the case, it didn’t reach every seat. Costumes were modern dress, with a clever, subtle change after Macbeth’s coronation.
Lazarus Theatre Company aim to make classic works accessible to contemporary audiences. With this extremely enjoyable production of Macbeth they have successfully achieved that aim.
Written by: William Shakespeare
Adaptated by: Ricky Dukes
Directed by: Ricky Dukes
Produced by: Gavin Harrington-Odedra
Box Office: 0208 858 7755
Booking Link: https://www.lazarustheatre.com/macbeth
Booking Until: 7 March 2020