Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A wonderful and atmospheric evening

Macbeth

TFTS Aberystwyth , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , March-29-07
Macbeth by TFTS Aberystwyth A play for children featuring ferocious war, seductive manipulation and bloody heads on 7 foot stakes. This does not sound like your average childrens schools Shakespeare project, but this is indeed what was encountered by the local school children of Aberstwyth, keen theatre goers and myself.

It is important to remember while reviewing this piece that the actors are all students at Aberystwyth University and are acting in a production created and produced jointly between the university theatre department and the local arts centre.

When visiting this production I wasn’t sure what to expect. The actual performance I attended was not attended by many children, the performances for them were matinees, however we were assured the performances were the same in content and when speaking to the actors we were again told that nothing had changed.

The show opens with pace and ferocity going swiftly from the three wyrd sisters to the camp of King Duncan regally played by Peter Willington.
We then follow action to our first encounter of Henry Pickett’s terrifying and intimidating warrior, Macbeth. He is accompanied by his friend and fellow general Banquo (Alan Mehdizadeh). Both of these actors are as imposing physically as they are vocally and both demonstrated weariness from battle and wisdom beyond their years. Pickett is particularly terrifying when he is foaming at the mouth and ordering the spirit of Banquo from his banquet (a scene not to be forgotten due to the sheer believability Macbeth is played with)
Cheshire’s brief to create a play for a younger key stage 3 & 4 audience feels almost disregarded as we see the witches being held at sword point and Macbeth wondering around his lonely castle topless sporting tattoos and blood to create a very disturbing image.

Lady Macbeth was played with as much intimidation and youthful sexuality as her male counterpart and an extraordinary sense of ambition and focus could be seen in Kate Edwards’ portrayal of her.

A lot of the acting in this production is clearly the work of some potentially talented people. However, as with most productions some of the performances can really lack clarity. A very obvious sign of a lack of textual understanding comes in the form of the portrayls of characters like Lennox, Sam Turner never seems quite comfortable with his character, the age or indeed the integrity he should have.

Production designs are very advanced with a wonderfully minimal set from Trudy Malloy and Mike Glen, Tom Reilly’s lighting design and the soundscapes and underscoring of James Palmer. What costume decision that have been made seem to be well managed and deployed by Amie Daly and Rhiannon Johnson and mention must also be made of the props from the swords to the trees of Burnham wood.

I think the children watching this play would have possibly been frightened by the live action sword fights, the screeching owls and the wonderfully frightening and awkward witches played by Amy Ross, Jennifer Woodhouse and the haunting Gemma Rook however, it is hard to imagine seasoned Shakespeare watchers being as frightened or intimidated as the younger audience members.

The last aspect I would criticise is perhaps the lack of directorial concept (a view shared by most others I have discussed this with). Richard Cheshire seems not to pick a place, a time or indeed any costume periods. Actors are dressed in differing military fatigues and the women in more traditional 17th century dresses. This again may be to aid the ease of access to the student watching but is disappointing to the more mature and expecting audience member. Over all, Cheshire and his team create a wonderful and atmospheric evening and I hope to return to Aberyswyth to see future productions.

Reviewed by: Tomas Heinz

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