Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Foul murder in Caerphilly’s medieval fortification.


Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru , Caerphilly Castle , February-09-17
Macbeth by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru Date: 7 – 18 Feb + Live Broadcast to cinemas across Wales, Tuesday 14 February, 2017
Repeat Screening (with English sub-titles)

With it’s shadowy lake, reflecting the moonlight and its craggy medieval towers wrapping their magic around us as we climbed a narrow staircase to a room buried somewhere deep in the castle, it was clear that this was the ideal venue for this magnificent work. This was quickly confirmed by the roar of thunder and the appearance of three ragged witches, who, fitting in so well with the background, might have been there since work on the castle had first begun. Ffion Dafis, Gwenllian Higginson and Siôn Eifion surrounded themselves in blankets of mystery and made it quite clear that they are not very nice.

This Welsh translation of Shakespeare’s text by former National Poet of Wales, the late Gwyn Thomas rang with a resounding truth against the hard, ancient walls of the Castle. Soon we were climbing more stairs to a bigger room dominated by a huge stone fireplace. They were going to sort out Macbeth.

But first we meet Duncan, King of Scotland, given a splendid subtle touch of royal command by Llion Williams. He learns that his generals, Macbeth among them, have defeated the combined forces of Norway and Ireland who were led by the traitorous Macdonwald, Thane of Cawdor.

Now Macbeth has been doing ok. He’s the Thane of Glamis and along with his friend Banquo, one of the King’s leading generals, there is little he wants or needs. But the witches have other ideas.

They confront Banquo and Macbeth. Again with a captivating power and strength they set out what will come to be the plot of the play. They hail Macbeth Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor and tell him he shall be king. The witches are covered with black, heavy cloaks. All the costumes are of heavy sacking and course wool, medieval, totally fitting the age of the castle and casting a brooding atmosphere over the narrative.

Macbeth contemplates the future the ghouls have mapped out for him. He has to fight with his inner, once decent, self. It sounds great but surely it cannot be. Richard Lynch plays the now tormented Macbeth with total conviction. We see a man before us really torn and fighting within himself. The witches’ words play harder on him when he is told that the king has appointed him Thane of Cawdor. Can the crown be far away?

Macbeth’s wife shares none of her husband’s uncertainties. The King visits them tonight, the perfect opportunity to get rid of him. Ffion Dafis is a beautiful, consummate lady Macbeth, a joy to watch as she moves so compellingly through the so many moods that eventually leads to her destruction.

Macbeth murders the king as he is sleeping and makes it look as if the king’s own guards have done it.

The remaining part of the play sets out the consequences that follow this action. Suspicions start to arise. Macbeth has his great friend Banquo killed but he returns as a ghost and terrifies Macbeth; another very fine performance by Gareth John Bale.

Macbeth seeks out the witches, again they tell him to watch out for Macduff who has also become suspicious. Whilst Macduff is in England, he seizes his castle and has Macduff’s wife and child killed. Owain Gwynn gives Macduff a strong touch of masculine charisma that perfectly equips him to bring the play towards its dramatic end.

Director Arwel Gruffydd has given the production a great overall conception that perfectly suits the surroundings. He continues with more sadness and some robust sword work, followed by Macduff returning to the stage holding up the severed head of Macbeth. The play then goes forward to its climax with some great music to accompany the crowning of Malcolm, a young, kingly Tomos Wyn, as the rightful King of Scotland. Bringing to an end this totally engaging production.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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