Tuesday, 4 July 2017

REVIEW: Macbeth at St Paul’s Church


Sitting in the middle of Covent Garden and with miserable weather feels like a Pathetic Fallacy as I’m readying myself for Macbeth in St Paul’s Churchyard AKA The Actor’s Church. This production celebrates Iris Theatre’s 10th anniversary and promises to be a terrifying, immersive journey through the madness of the King of Scotland.

We all know the story, but if you don’t, allow me to recap: It’s the familiar tale of boy goes to war, boy and best friend meet three witches, boy is told of a prophecy that he will become king, boy tells wife, wife becomes fuelled by ambition and convinces boy to kill the king, boy kills king, boy becomes king, boy starts to go mad, boy kills best friend, boy slips even further into madness, wife goes mad with guilt, boy slips further into madness, wife kills herself due to madness, boy blames himself, boy fights friend who was born via a Caesarean, boy is killed, blah blah blah people die. 

Iris theatre’s interpretation of a classic is superb from the go with the Three Witches being portrayed as insect-like creatures (with hefty masks on), each with their own personality from a shy and meek little one, who looks like a Venus fly trap, to a strong ten foot tall who demands your attention with a mosquito like face, from the beginning. This interpretation of the witches is innovative and although the actors were wearing masks covering their whole heads they’re delivery was as emotive if they weren’t wearing them. We’re ushered through the grounds scene by scene by the the actors and it doesn’t feel awkward at all. 

Actors are directing conversation to the audience as they are part of the kings court one minute and a confident the next to great effect. 
The cast is small and so they are playing multiple roles and this is very effective; they change roles so quickly it really adds a touch of magic in this classical setting. 

After being taken through the doors to Macbeth’s courtyard we are greeted by
Lady Macbeth played by Mogali Masuku whilst she reads the letter from her husband telling of the prophecy he had received. Masuku is simply show stopping. Her portrayal of Lady Macbeth winds you with power and vulnerability. Her Lady Macbeth flows from strong and stable as the supportive wife to the terrified grief stricken mess she ends up being. Her ‘Out damned spot’ monologue was frantic and as her final moment in front of the audience it trickled off into pure madness. For someone so young to the stage, her command of it is admirable. 

As we were promenaded through the grounds and the multiple sets, which are impressive, they reflect the descent into madness we are witnessing from Macbeth. The only actor not to multi-role, obviously, is David Howell Baynes and his honest, brutal and refreshing portrayal of the title character. As ambition turns to insanity, not only does his mind contort but so does his body. Undoubtedly his crowning moment is the banquet scene, where in this version, reality and madness start to blur the lines of what is being seen by Macbeth and the audience. Witches sit amongst them whilst the bloodied spectre of Banquo (Nick Howard-Brown) terrorises the sleepless king of Scotland even more before his final plummet into sleepless terror. 

Daniel Winder has done a brilliant job with this overdone tragedy. The only thing that lets it down is the pace. What is known to be the quickest of The Bard’s works comes in at three hours due to moving the audience to the many locations; although beautifully staged and innovative, due to this timing issue the attention of the audience may have wained slightly. 

Iris Theatre’s Macbeth runs until the 29th of July at The Actor’s Church. Although lengthy I will be seeing it again before the run ends. 

Review by James-Lee Campbell

Rating: ★★★★

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