DramaNorth East & YorkshireShakespeareShakespeare 400

Macbeth – The Civic, Barnsley

Writer: William Shakespeare

Music: Phil Ward

Director: Mike Tweddle

Reviewer: Ray Taylor

among the Shakespeare canon, the Scottish play is one of the most popular, particularly with younger audiences. This is probably due to its exciting plot, memorable set pieces and its comparatively shorter duration than most of the other plays. It has been adapted for the screen on numerous occasions and, indeed, its latest incarnation has just done the rounds (with Michael Fassbender). How does this production fare?

One of many startling things about this current offering is that it is performed by just two actors and lasts just a breathtaking 80 minutes. Troels Hagen Findsen and Paul O’Mahoney undertake 30 roles between them, something they are well used to as their other productions for Out Of Chaos demand a similar approach. Both deliver these roles with commendable skill, energy and agility. Playing multiple roles calls for more stamina and dexterity than normal and the particular set design here, with a basic table and two stools that are constantly manoeuvred into different positions and formations,requires even more physicality. Indeed O’Mahoney, at one point leaping from the table onto the stool, did very well to retain his balance and avoid serious injury.

The other main physical props are hand held torches that are used quite regularly throughout very effectively. This play has some very dark themes and the lighting effects achieved emphasise these darker elements both literally and metaphorically. A third component that adds to the atmosphere is the guitar music soundtrack that is never obtrusive but always, to use a pun, strikes the right chord.

The Company involve the audience in some inventive ways that are enjoyable and make the whole experience more interactive than is usual in a Shakespeare play. At the beginning, the audience is encouraged and “instructed” to say some of the witches’ lines and at various points throughout the evening individual audience members “play” servants and messengers by reading a line from a piece of paper presented to them by the actor. This works very well, even if the odd word is fluffed.

Ultimately, as with any play, the final verdict depends on the quality of the acting and both Findsen and O’Mahoney deserve a lot of credit for their expertise. Change of role is indicated purely by voice, manner and stance with entrances and exits announced. There are no costume changes of any kind. The main pairing of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth inevitably dominate and O’Mahoney and Findsen spark off each other while both capitulating to their respective inner demons. This is an accomplished potted version of the play that, according to the director, is still open to further development but is not without merit for its achievements thus far.

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