Eliza Grant 22 February 2010

Judith E. Wilson Studio


MACDUFF: Not in the legions/ Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn’d/ In evils to top Macbeth. (4.3.55-7). Macduff’s words rang true if taken as comment on this performance of Macbeth. It was not a happy play-going experience.

Director Isabel Taylor had the audience sat with their eyes directed towards a rubbish pile which dominated the Judith E. Wilson Studio. However, much of the action occurred in a corner for example, crucial scenes between Macbeth (James Barwise) and Lady Macbeth (Kathryn Griffiths). In this way, whilst some spectators could see everything, others had to strain their necks constantly ninety degrees to the left. To compensate for this, the audience needed to hear Shakespeare’s text spoken with confidence by actors who were sensitive to the material. Instead, lines were spoken quietly and quickly. Lady Macbeth was, at points, inaudible. Macbeth rushed his lines so that all spectators must have had to rely on knowing the play in order to follow the plot at all. The plot was not the only thing spectators were asked to follow: this was a ‘promenade performance’ and, at several key moments, we were directed out of the studio to experience the play in the corridors of the English Faculty. As we wound round the back of the studio, the witches (Lucinda Higgie, Deli Segal and Susanne Curry) told us ‘none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth’ and ‘Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until/ Great Birnam wood…Shall come against him.’ These crucial lines were lost on half the audience who could neither see nor hear, the corridor not big enough for us all. Macduff (John Winterburn) was convincingly upset when he heard about his family’s death. He raised his voice and he raised his game. A powerful moment in an otherwise disappointing production.

Eliza Grant