March 25th 2017 | Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich | Theatre
Words: Nic Bull | Photo: Sean Owen/Reflective Arts
Probably the darkest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, the Norwich Players’ production of Macbeth came to the end of its run on Saturday night.
In a play full of intensely powerful emotions, the brave Scottish general Macbeth learns from three witches of a prophecy in which he is to become the king of Scotland. There follows a tale of blood, death and violence as, with his ruthless wife beside him, he strives to bring the prophecy to fruition. His evil deeds and emotional struggles dominate his path, until finally the prophecy delivers its lethal twist.
Ably directed by Chris Bealey, the play was performed beneath visually stunning shipwreck staging. This unique concept was subtly blended into the play by opening with a slight deviation from the text, where we see the witches (Dawn Brindle, Victoria Penn, Jane Keidan, Fiona Fletcher, Etta Geras) planning a shipwreck (traditionally in Act I, Scene III), before moving on to their evil plans for Macbeth.
In this adaptation, the witches maintained their presence on stage, hovering around the edges of the action, suggesting menace and interference, throughout the production. They cleverly used this stage presence to play minor characters, further implying their involvement in all the drama following their initial meeting with Macbeth.
The cast all gave strong performances, delivering the original Shakespearean lines with intelligence and meaning. Warren Lynch as Macbeth delivered a performance that drew the audience to him; understated at times and full of the conflict of emotions that accompanied his evil deeds. As Lady Macbeth, Jacqueline Du Ven was powerful, and at times, chilling, in her portrayal, taking the audience with her on the journey from cold heartlessness, to madness, culminating in a very dramatic sleep-walking scene.
Other performances that caught the eye included Trevor Markworth as Macbeth’s companion and fellow captain, Banquo. He delivered a very believable performance as the trusting friend, duped by Macbeth until his untimely death. Macduff, a nobleman who swore revenge on Macbeth after the murder of his wife and children, was ably played by Mark Kitto, who gave a genuinely moving performance of grief and anger.
Worth a special mention is Trevor Burton for his take on The Porter, who imagined himself as the porter to Hell, joking with the audience about who he might let in. He provided much needed light relief following the brutal events that occurred in the previous Act, while managing to underscore the insanity of the terrible events that were unfolding.
With minimal changes to the set between scenes, the focus was very much on the cast performances and interactions. Although there were a number of dramatic lighting and dry ice effects, there was very little to distract from the content of the play.
A powerful, intense dramatisation which had the audience gripped to the grisly end.