All 2 entries tagged Plays

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April 18, 2007



Last night I went to see Macbeth. Performed by the RSC at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and directed by Conall Morrison, the performance emphasised the intense psychological drama of Shakespeare’s play and provided some interesting interpretative strategies. The most striking of these was the take on the witches. The opening scene sees them and their children murdered by Macbeth’s own hand. Throughout the rest of the play they/ their ghosts are the directing force of the action as they embark on a quest for revenge. In watching Macbeth in performance, I am always interested in how the dinner-party scene with Banquo’s ghost will be enacted. In this production, the manipulation of the scene by the witches emphasises the idea that it is they who are given ultimate power and control. Their continued presence throughout the castle scenes contributes to this idea and enhances the confusing eeriness of the proceedings. Certainly their doubling up as other characters adds a profundity that may have otherwise been lost to Macbeth’s emotive meta-theatrical soliloquies and the sense that ‘life is a stage’. The fact that, as the witches, they perform the porter’s speech also contributes to the confusion and the blurring of gender boundaries throughout the production. Having them read lines which seem, on the page, overtly ‘masculine’ works well here and raises some interesting ontological issues. The question ‘what is a man?’ recurs throughout and is answered by each character in his or her own manner, none it seems being able to reach the ultimate ideal they envisage as the answer. Macduff’s internal struggle as he recovers from the shock of hearing that his wife and babes are murdered is a hugely intense performance and perhaps articulates best the struggle of the whole cast to achieve the masculine principle they so fervently propound. This struggle is seen as a major contributory factor to the onslaught of insanity and mania that forms an overwhelming force in the second half of the production. The frailty of the central characters as they are manipulated by each other and the witches is perhaps one of the main factors behind such an emotionally gripping production. Certainly, the frailty that Derbhie Crotty’s Lady Macbeth demonstrates as a lost soul tossed and turned by fate evokes more sympathy than could perhaps be thought possible for a character speaking such evil words and propelling her husband onto murderous action.

December 18, 2005

Great Expectations at the RST in Stratford

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Nick Omerod and Declan Donnellan’s new adaptation of ‘Great Expectations’ has not, so far, received very complimentary reviews. As a fan of the novel, I decided to go and see the play for myself. After a slow and somewhat confused beginning, I felt that the performance improved significantly as it progressed. Part of this was due to the time it took to adjust to the unusual form of the dialogue. Most of the actors remained on stage throughout the performance and all contributed to the formation of Pip’s conscience. As well as sharing his lines, they also represented his thoughts and fears. In places, this was really effective and worked well.

As well as in the divining of the dialogue, the production also relied heavily on the imagination of the audience in its sparse use of props and costume. As a dramatization of a very bleak novel, it would seem inappropriate to employ elaborate decoration and furnishings. It therefore seemed fitting to signify place symbolically by the use of one or two stage props. For instance, a desk aptly represented Jaggers office, and a table that held the decaying wedding cake symbolized Miss Haversham’s house.

Throughout the performance, most of the actors played their roles convincingly. I was slightly disappointed with the lack of passion Pip expressed but was especially impressed by the haughtiness the young Estella managed to convey, and by the inner fury of Magwitch.

With the choice of endings, I was interested to see which the producers would decide upon. I won’t spoil it now but I will say that, after the tone of the rest of the performance, I was slightly surprised at their decision.

All in all, I would recommend the play as well worth seeing. I would advise, however, not to hold out hopes that it will be as good as many of the RSC performances of Shakespearean dramas.

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