Brockley Jack Theatre
theFaction, a young independent company focussed on the classics, has returned to the Brockley Jack with another thought provoking production, this time of Shakespeare's Macbeth.
The youth of the players and their inventive and physical approach has blown away the cobwebs associated with the play from previous prosaic reverent productions that, to be honest, have rather deterred me from going to see Macbeth.
Planks of wood are the only scenery and swords and daggers the only props. Both are used to very good effect - as the cast move the boards the motion creates an organic progression from one scene to the next, thereby accentuating the moments where the stage is empty and bare. The actors are in the walls and screens they create, their eerie presence lending itself well to a play where ethereal voices are conjured up and haunting spirits appear.
They have used an all male company "to explore the relationship of an emasculated Macbeth and an unsexed Lady Macbeth and perceived notions of masculine and feminine traits". I am not convinced that an all male cast brings something new here. In our liberated - if not yet completely equal - society 'men getting in touch with their feminine side' is virtually a cliché, androgynous images are commonplace and men and women can swap traits as easily as they can swap their underwear. The notion that you can be a woman and be ruthlessly strong-minded has common acceptance: our top female role models may have to fight hard but they don't have to be manipulative or to will themselves "unsexed" in order to achieve their success. Likewise a man can be controlled without being emasculated.
There is an area however where the concept is more successful. What emerges naturally from the text and is pointed up by their all male approach is the weight of the juxtaposition between Lady Macbeth's uncompromising ambition and the maternal vulnerability of Lady Macduff (played by Jude Owusu Achiaw); this is made all the more so since this slightly pared adaptation has her son as a small child that she holds to her breast.
Jamie Maclachlan's powerful and accessible Macbeth along with actor and director Mark Leipacher's Lady Macbeth dominates the production. Other strong performances come from Gary Amers as Banquo, the antithesis of Macbeth's ill-fated ambition, and Henry Maynard's Macduff who comes to lead the rising against the despotic King Macbeth from a sense of what is right and his own need for revenge. The manservant Seyton and the Porter are combined and played engagingly by Richard Delaney.
A word should also go to Fight Director Marcello Marascalchi whose evident skills provide a well-paced and precise choreography, ending in a hunting tableaux. Other strong images are provided by the impressive Witches, blindfolded seers, Golum-like straddling supernatural, human and animal form, their function in the plot made crystal clear in this uncluttered but emotive production.
"Macbeth" runs until Saturday 4th April with performances on Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8.00pm and Sundays at 5.00pm. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes without an interval.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti