The Curse of Macbeth


Cambridge University ADC
Playhouse at the Hawke & Hunter Green Room

Max Barton (director) has devised an infinitely watchable production of Macbeth. This is a kind of goth-psycho examination of the myth of Macbeth as he spirals into madness, all done with smoke and mirrors. Really; smoke and mirrors. The further Macbeth gets into his head the more smoke there is. Because much of the mystical part of the play takes place behind two-way mirrors, we are not sure what is real and what is Macbeth’s psyche acting up.

The men are mostly in simple black while the women are costumed in black bustiers. The use of the mirrors to reveal the prophesies and the inside of Macbeth’s mind and a very interesting dimension to the interpretation.

The production values are what make this production successful. The mirrors are well constructed to move easily. The sound and songs, the lights are peerlessly designed, created and utilized.

Had the director put as much energy into the text as he did into the production values, there would be no doubt that this production of Macbeth would garner the attention it deserves.

But Macbeth screams and at times he fights with the other sounds so we miss some of what he is saying. Lady Macbeth lacks the kind of ambition and cunning which is necessary as a catalyst. She says, "Take this milk for gall" but it doesn’t happen. The actors are talented enough and work very hard, but a lack of continuity of vision trips them up occasionally. What starts out as well constructed and choreographed action turns to chaos; a lot of sound and fury.

I have to say, at this point, that the press release names only Barton as director of this Macbeth and also plugs, twice, another production in which he performs and which is directed by his father. It does also mention the art work and masks of Tom De Freston who may also have designed the set. No actors are named, no lighting designer, no sound designer, no choreographer, no music and lyric writer nor any other of the production crew who must have worked so hard to make this come to life.

And there was no programme available, so I cannot mention by name the set designer who is brilliant, the sound designer who is brilliant, the lighting designer who is brilliant, the costume designer and builder, nor the production crew who made this seamless and mesmerizing.

Reviewer: Catherine Lamm