Review: The Macedonian Tragedy

Connie Fisher 14 November 2012

The Macedonian Tragedy

Fitzpatrick Hall, 7.30pm, until Sat 17 Nov

It’s no mean feat for a student to attempt to write a mock-Jacobean tragedy, but Thomas Moodie has definitely given it a pretty good shot.

Featuring the conventional masque-within-a-play, self-conscious dramaturgy and close-to-gratuitous violence, Moodie’s literary heritage is evident throughout his sinister tragedy of the trials of King Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great. His ingenious blank verse was especially powerful in the several soliloquies, and frequently rung with authenticity (excepting the few anachronisms, including a surprising ‘Fuck you!’ (OED 1921) towards the close).

Richard Leyland’s King Philip was predictably overshadowed slightly by the strength of Alexander (Pedro Spivakoysky-Gonzalez), who just blurred a few lines in the speed of his delivery. The crazed usurped Queen, Olympius (Becky Bennion) was also convincing in a difficult part, and, when she finally spoke, Cleopatra (Olivia Stocker) shone. It was King Phillip’s advisor, Parmenion (Georgia Ware), however, who debatably gave the most powerful performance, despite being in a smaller role.

The history of the fourth century BC king fitted neatly with the tragic genre, but the production itself fell short of fulfilling the grand tragic premise set by the text. When the fight scene in which the Elder Pausanius (Tom Stafford) grabbed hold of the blade of Younger Pausanius’s (Owen Newburn’s) foil, and then stabbed his rival with a tiny knife rather unconvincingly in the neck, the audience were left shame-facedly stifling giggles. When the King was stabbed and the Queen fainted during the masque scene, no one approached them, the others on stage standing statically in their place, even to declare “The King is not yet dead” and then, soon after, “The King is dead!”

An attempt at simple dress, the female actors playing the King’s men in black trousers and white shirt, and a lack of props, amongst many references to grand feasting, luxurious costumes and courtly music just seemed a little inadequate and unconvincing – and it’s not that I can’t use my imagination in such productions.

The text delivered, but the production didn’t quite fit the naturally demanding tragic bill. Set in the large auditorium of Queen’s Fitzpatrick Hall, King Phillip’s oversized jacket seemed a metaphor for the performance itself: the text and its subject matter were extremely impressive and powerful, but required a little more muscle from the actors and production to convincingly fill it out.

Connie Fisher