Before two o’clock this afternoon, all I knew about Macbeth was that the name is taboo in theatres and that, sometime during its length, some guy starts talking to a skull.
Okay, so the by the end I not only knew that Macbeth is not the Shakespearean play involving a skull (that’s Hamlet, according to my world-wise father), but that I am almost wholly un-enlightened in the way of the plotline.
My synopsis is this: a Scot, called Macbeth, and his friend are approached by a strange, echo-y lady with a line drawn down the middle of her face and are told respectively that they will have some connection to kings and royalty, amidst much confusing ranting and what appeared to be a form of alternative dance. This Macbeth has a slightly scary wife and together they hatch a plot to kill the king. A few more murders happen, replete with extraordinary fake blood, and there’s an amazingly disturbing scene during which Lady Macbeth is dressed in a shimmery white nightdress and obviously thinks she’s got blood on her hands; and metaphorically speaking, she does. There’s another killing – I won’t give the plotline away (if there’s anyone in the world apart from me who doesn’t know it) – but eventually Macbeth is defeated.
Just because I didn’t fully understand the intricacies doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the play. In actual fact, it was amazing. I was blown away by the set, which was an expanse of realistic-looking fake grass, with the occasional small grassy bush, underneath a mirror-panelled expanse. For something so simple it worked exceptionally and, coupled with lighting, was totally captivating. Note: wait until most people are out of the theatre before you go up and feel the set. Tech guys, set designers and embarrass-able parents might not appreciate it.
The atmosphere was scary. I admit to being quite disturbed, but mainly during the part where the dead guy started rolling off stage in an eerie resemblance to a mannequin and without dropping the pose he was in. And of course the fake blood was a sight I won’t forget in a hurry.
The performance given by Kate Mulvany as Lady Macbeth was probably the highlight of the show. During the somnambulist scene I actually felt the need to cuddle up to my dad, even closer than before, out of pure horror (I ignored the irritated grumblings from the members of audience behind me, who obviously felt that their view had been compromised – they had been kicking my seat during act 1, anyway). I, being a Dickens fan, was immediately reminded of Miss Havisham: unstable. I was half expecting her to leap of the stage and set herself on fire. Ha ha! No really, it was scary.
The other performances were almost as good. I’d swear that the witch, Lizzie Schebesta, played about three roles. However, she was only credited for one in the program. The black line down the face was either a distinguishing feature or a recurring theme. We’ll never know. And Macbeth was awe-inspiring too. The only thing that could have added to his performance was a monologue to a skull…
Over all, the performance was spectacular. Being a Macbeth first-timer, I could find no fault with the execution of the play, and the acting and casting seemed perfect.
One thing though: never go to the theatre during winter. The endless coughing rather wrecks the mood.
Arts Centre Melbourne