Macbeth: A Mind Tormented – Albany Theatre, Coventry

Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Vivien Jones

Reviewer: Nicole Craft

The Albany Theatre, having recently secured their future for the next half-century, further makes its presence in the city as a leading theatrical venue known this evening by launching its brand-new studio space.

After a small launch event, The Studio opens its curtains to audiences for the first time and welcomes visiting company Ceridwen to the stage to showcase their take on the Shakespeare classic, Macbeth.

Macbeth: A Mind Tormented is billed as telling the tale of Shakespeare’s soldier through the prism of PTSD during WW1. The theme appears to begin well with Macbeth waking up surrounded by nurses; dazed and confused, he instructs his watchers to act out a hallucinated scenario, a request they all reluctantly meet. As Macbeth returns to sleep, another scene emerges, this time trench banter between three comrades. Laughter turns to panic as a bomb drops and the three are killed, each becoming one of Macbeth’s three witches, telling the prophecies of him becoming king.

Unfortunately, this is where the strong link to the intended theme ends – returning only briefly post-interval and during the play’s last scene – and, despite its obvious potential, one has to question why it was explored in the first place and then given such a small part to play.

The acting is mostly strong throughout, although let down slightly by the decision to give four of the five cast members multiple, repeatedly changing, roles. Despite some very subtle costume adjustments to assist us, differentiating between characters is tough at times, even with prior knowledge of the plot, and the actors don’t quite do enough to separate their characters as they swap between their various parts. That being said, when each one takes on their main role, they are hard to fault.

John Faulds, the only cast member to have just one part, impresses ten-fold with his RSC-stage-worthy performance as Macbeth. Piercingly eying his audience during his monologues and instantly switching between malevolent and melancholy, he deftly delivers the complicated prose and has the audience completely captivated throughout. Oliver Byng does well to stand alongside him as Banquo, matching Faulds’ strong projection and offers the only exception to the role-change faults while briefly playing a charmingly-innocent Son of Macduff.

Lady Macbeth comes courtesy of Helena Devereux who softly and slowly convinces us she is a good fit for the part. Although suffering occasional slips into the background – partly due to Faulds’ strength somewhat overshadowing her – Devereux does eventually charm us into believing her madness.

As a straight up and down portrayal of Macbeth, and this is certainly what the play morphs into when not trying to put its unique twist on it, this production would tick most of the boxes. It’s simple, the staging is clever, the lighting atmospheric and the acting good. There’s a definite element of ‘if it ain’t broke…’ about the decision to try something different with such a classic and, on this occasion, there just wasn’t enough commitment to the changes to make it work well.

Macbeth: A Mind Tormented is certainly worth the modest amount of your hard-earned cash it costs to go and see it, and as long as you go expecting to see a fairly ordinary adaptation of Macbeth, you won’t be disappointed.

Runs until 3 March 2018 | Image: Contributed

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