Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 12th March, 2019
I have lost count of the number of productions of the Scottish Play I have seen over the years; I have yet to see one that gets everything absolutely right. This touring version of the acclaimed National Theatre production doesn’t, I’m afraid, do it for me either.
Set ‘now’ but ‘after a civil war’, the action takes place in a dingy world of camouflage gear and the kind of clothing that gives the cast the appearance of an urban dance troupe that has fallen on hard times. I’m all for diversity in casting, but I can do without Diversity as an aesthetic. I half-expected Ashley Banquo to come on and flip Fleance over the heads of the group. Said Fleance is gender-swapped and dressed like a young rapper. Nuff said.
Rae Smith’s set includes a large ramp, like a broken footbridge, which is initially put to good use but is then side-lined in favour of plastic chairs and beat-up sofas. There are also tall poles, like bedraggled palm trees, up and down which the Three Witches clamber and slide like post-apocalyptic circus performers – I could have done with more of this kind of thing, and a bit less of their booming, echoey voices, which go against their other ethereal qualities.
Michael Nardone’s Macbeth is all right to listen to, but we don’t get the impression of a great warrior gone bad – especially not when he’s being duct-taped into his armour. Kirsty Besterman’s Lady Macbeth’s first appearance, in khaki vest, has the look of a military physical trainer, which she trades up for some garish gowns, at odds with the rest of the design. Besterman brings intensity though and her sleepwalking scene is rather good.
Instead of crowns, the ruling monarch sports a blood-red suit, and so Duncan (Tom Mannion – effortless in his nobility) looks like a lounge singer. When Macbeth later dons the trousers, it brings to mind the “I am in blood stepped in so far” line, which makes sense of Moritz Junge’s costume choice at last.
I can’t take to Joseph Brown’s Malcolm in the slightest but I do like Deka Walmsley’s bawdy Geordie Porter, Patrick Robinson’s Banquo, and above all Rachel Sanders’s Ross – these three seem to get the most out of the language, while coping with director Rufus Norris’s decisions, some of which make Shakespeare sound ironic: “This castle hath a pleasant seat” (it doesn’t; it looks like half a portacabin) and “Never shake thy gory locks at me” (Banquo’s pate is as bald as a Malteser)…
There is some effectively dissonant original music by Orlando Gough, and Paul Arditti’s sound design adds to the eeriness – until it becomes intrusive – while Paul Pyant’s lighting is suitably dramatic. But the action doesn’t grip me, the tragedy of a great man brought low by his ambition and supernatural interference doesn’t’ come across.
Ditch the camouflage get-up and the urban combat gear. Let’s have a Game of Thrones version. That would be relatable to the Youth too.
Ramping up the action: the cast of Macbeth
Leave a comment | tags: Deka Walmsley, Grand Theatre Wolverhampton, Joseph Brown, Kirsty Besterman, Macbeth, Michael Nardone, Moritz Junge, National Theatre, Orlando Gough, Patrick Robinson, Paul Arditti, Paul Pyant, Rachel Sanders, Rae Smith, Rufus Norris, Tom Mannion, William Shakespeare | posted in Review, Shakespeare, Theatre Review
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 26th March, 2015
Eddie Carbone is a hothead but a decent fella. He hasn’t got much but he has brought up his niece as though she is his own daughter. He welcomes his wife’s Italian cousins into his home when they arrive as illegal immigrants looking for work. Except perhaps he is a little too close to his niece, a little too possessive.
When new arrival Rodolpho turns niece Catherine’s head, Eddie can’t handle it, and the fuse paper is lit in Arthur Miller’s explosive powder keg of a play.
Jonathan Guy Lewis is utterly compelling as the volatile Eddie, whose emotions are never far from the surface. He is supported by an excellent cast: Daisy Boulton’s Catherine and Teresa Banham’s Beatrice are strong characters, although dominated by the man in their life. James Rastall catches the eye as the handsome Rodolpho, with his bright head of blond hair, his snake hips and animated conversation. His rendition of ‘Paper Doll’ is both hilarious and seductive. And he cooks, and makes clothes – what more could anyone want? – but he also brings out the worst in his host: Eddie’s jealousy.
We see all this from the remove of a narrator – Michael Brandon as Alfieri, a lawyer. It’s a framing device that leads us into the slum neighbourhood, in what is now a period piece. Brandon lends authenticity to the production but I have to say, on all sides, the Noo Yoik accents are particularly good. Liz Ashcroft’s evocative set – all telegraph poles and a fire escape – gives us enough of an impression of the place, while Paul Pyant’s lighting keeps things dingy and grim. Director Stephen Unwin offsets the narrated passages with freeze-frames: despite the naturalism, it is a story we are being told. It’s a gripping production, superbly presented and performed.
And Miller’s writing has a relevance today with immigration being such a hot topic. We are shown a human face to the migrant workers, desperate to make life better for the folks they have had to leave behind. When it goes belly-up for Rodolpho and Marco (Philip Cairns) we understand exactly what is at stake.
The tragedy is inevitable but nonetheless shocking – electrifying in fact. Eddie may only be a king in his mind but Miller shows us, even the ordinary man can be brought down by a fatal flaw in his nature.
The production is the result of a consortium of theatres, sharing resources and, of course, the cost. It’s the way forward for regional productions and an excellent way to ensure high quality work being seen outside of the capital.
Leave a comment | tags: A View From The Bridge, Arthur Miller, Daisy Boulton, Grand Theatre Wolverhampton, James Rastall, Jonathan Guy Lewis, Liz Ashcroft, Michael Brandon, Paul Pyant, Philip Cairns, review, Stephen Unwin, Teresa Banham | posted in Theatre Review