Review by Danny & Terry Gaisin
For obvious reasons, Shakespeare’s MacBETH (aka The Scottish Play – to the superstitious) is one of the most required Eng. Lit. studies. Our seatmates at the Festival Theatre actually discussed in what grade it was first encountered; and then on how many occasions it was subsequently seen. We were near the foremost in that latter category given our present career! Viewed it myriad times but Antoni Cimolino’s directorial take has to be considered the new benchmark and the new ten as in “ – out of ten”. It’s awesome.
From the get-go, Cimolino stages a dark; spellbinding and foreboding interpretation. Even the Festival atmosphere seems to project doom. His artistic touches are reflected in the most miniscule of details. The man doesn’t just worry about blocking; he’s immaculate and the individual portrayals reflect the contagion he must have imbued. Every word; movement; pause or emphasis is a gem of precision. The result is a study of all the symbolism and message that is an integral part of what Shakespeare penned. The vibe that is being experienced by the audience is undoubtedly enhanced by the lighting and sound effects that can raise hackles or goosebumps. Another augmentation is the musical background composed by Steven Page.
In case there may be a reader or two that isn’t familiar with the plot; Macbeth is a Scottish soldier who has just returned from successfully overpowering an invading Norwegian army. He’s a hero and is given two ‘Thanedoms” (intern-rank nobleman) as a reward. Such a taste of semi-royalty is insufficient and so he under his wife’s influence, decide to murder their way to the top. I kept thinking of the recent O.J. Simpson TV mini-series about how ambition destroyed him; or even the ongoing saga of the American Clintons! In spite or because of supernatural portents and necromancy; the Macbeth’s feel an entitlement that supersedes normal morality. It doesn’t work out as anticipated.
There are brief moments of humour to break the overall and highly emotional mood of the presentation. The ‘knock, knock; who’s there’ scene and the occasional moments of irony glean laughter…but it’s nervous laughter.
Portraying the Macbeths are Ian Lake and Krystin Pellerin. They are both superb choices not only physically but for their individual thespian talents. Every movement, pause or emphasis is faultless. Lake demonstrates the charisma of a successful athlete but is a ‘beta’ male when in discourse with his wife. Pellerin has an almost angelic demeanor the belies her character’s murderous essence and ego. Again, a Clintonesque parallel. He has instants of monologue or dialogue that are intrinsic to the plot and expressive of what the writer was trying to teach. Pellerin has a scene where she sleepwalks (“out, out, damned spot) with guilt, and presents it so succinctly that if this were an opera, the audience would respond with shouts of ‘encore’. His powerhouse moment has to be the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creep in this petty pace…a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury – signifying NOTHING”, to which this scribe must apologize for sotto voce’ed accompaniment. Sorry, couldn’t help it. Lake was just too perfect in his rendering. His nemesis is a powerhouse Macduff in a highly charged interpretation by Michael Blake.
The support roles of Sarah Afful’s Lady Macduff and scene-stealing Oliver Neudorf as her son, augment the plot with their contributions. Scott Wentworth’s Banquo, both alive and ghostlike adds to the drama. The Wilson/Shelley/Gillard-Rowlings witchery trio are the things that nightmares are made of. When they ‘boil & bubble’ audiences will thank the stars that they’re not on the receiving end.
There is a scene in Shakespeare’s Henry V that I’d like to paraphrase. I think that every member of Cimolino’s cast will want to claim and post that “We few, we happy few; we band of brothers that ‘performed with us in Macbeth’”. Just participating is a résumé accolade.
MacBETH is at the Festival Theatre and the run has been extended due to demand.