Signifying Nothing


Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 28th September, 2011


There are countless ways to speak the lines of Shakespeare.  Unfortunately a number of those are wrong.  This production was hampered by either the cast’s failure to understand what they were saying or the director’s inability to correct this or his misunderstanding of key speeches.   This gave rise to some unintentionally comic moments. For example when Old Siward learns the fate of his brave son, Young Siward, and hears of how bravely the boy fought and the nature of the wounds that killed him, he is actually examining, even manhandling, the body.  “He is dead then?” he asks.


At times this becomes ridiculous, at others annoying, and it’s a pity because the cast of seven players of the “Icarus Theatre Collective” work hard to keep the thing going.  Of course they were doubling up characters like billy-o and some of the double casting worked better than others.  The gangling Banquo was more effective as the doctor.  Lady Macbeth was not a very good Murderer.  Best of the bunch was Duncan, (Zachary  Holton – clearly the most experienced actor in the troupe), who spoke his lines as though he were living them and not just reciting (mis-reciting) them.   Perhaps I’m being too harsh.   The cast spoke with good diction and emoted with varying degrees of success, but they weren’t feeling it and so neither was I.


The fight scenes were energetic, with swords and bucklers, spears and axes – this production was Scottish Medieval in design – apart from the set which was largely an assortment of vertical planks like an American city skyline, and a huge swatch of red fabric that swept diagonally across stage left as in a Baroque painting.  A full moon hung over the proceedings.  On this, images were projected: a raven, an increasing amount of blood… but the moon also served as a more literal marker for the location of scenes.  When Macduff visits Malcolm in England, the lunar surface is decorated with the cross of Saint George.


The production has one or two good ideas but most seem to clutter the action.  There is some symbolism with a peacock’s feather I am still puzzling through.


The performance I attended began at 10.30 am. Also present were coach-loads of schoolchildren who for the most part were well-behaved if a little bemused and bored.  I don’t know if they went away with the play clarified or obfuscated by the earnest if misguided production.   What could have been a straightforward, no frills presentation was hobbled by the director’s misconceptions.

About williamstafford

Novelist (Brough & Miller, sci fi, historical fantasy) Theatre critic and Actor - I can often be found walking the streets of Stratford upon Avon in the guise of the Bard! View all posts by williamstafford

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