Constantly toying with the boundaries between reality, the supernatural, fate and madness, Shakespeare’s Scottish play is renowned for being one of his darkest. It is this shadowy aspect of the work which co-directors Tom Fawcett and Lucy Clarke are eager to embrace in their own production.
Their stage is the front quad of Regent’s Park and, in spite of the jam-packed bike racks (which I’m assured will all have been removed by show time), it is certainly a space with dramatic potential. With stony steps providing elevation and the two-storey windows of the dining hall giving effective backlighting, Lucy also tells me the courtyard provides great acoustics. The cast therefore has quite a challenge ahead of them in matching their performances to this striking environment, and they undoubtedly try their best, although sometimes stretch too far and become a tad melodramatic.
I was shown three scenes including the well-known sequence where the trio of witches in the midst of an incantation are stumbled across by Macbeth and Banquo and impart their infamous prophecy – Macbeth will be king. Dressed in black the witches all shrieked and squealed their spells with maddening pace and volume and their movements across the stage were slow but purposeful, like poisonous snakes. Stan Carrodus as Banquo successfully carried an air of fearlessness and entitlement well-suited to a nobleman and has an admirable grasp of the Shakespearean dialogue. Unfortunately, being in his company makes Alex Hartley’s Macbeth seem almost timid. Even before hearing his fortune, he seems worried just about being in Scotland, although this anxious and frantic demeanour works much better in later scenes once he is implicit in treason.
Speaking of intrigue we turn now to Lady Macbeth. Played by Francesca Nicholls, this Lady Macbeth is as manipulative, half-crazed and dynamic and you could wish her to be. While her speech at times feels forced, overly breathy and mature, it works well in most of her scenes and her faux fainting and forceful shoves provide much of the energy I saw.
With still half a week of rehearsals to go this performance shows a lot of promise, and, while not subtle, this show looks set to reward viewers for embracing the dramatic side of things. Although I would advise audience members to wrap up in as many layers as possible, I’m certain that once you’ve achieved a level of comfort your attention will be captivated by this haunting production. And as one cast member mentioned, if you’re lucky enough for the moon to come out, you might even start thanking the directors for not putting on this show indoors.