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Venue: Temple Church, London  

Macbeth
5.0Reviewer's rating

 Atmospheric and Compelling

Antic Disposition’s atmospheric, compelling and admirably clear production of Macbeth should be on your list of things to see this month. Staged in the evocative surroundings of the 12th Century Temple Church (between Fleet Street and Embankment), the setting gives an immediacy to the spiritual and historical issues in the play. This is, after all, a church built by the Knights Templar and modelled on the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; it contains effigies of the men who persuaded King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215; and King John used the church as his base at that time. This play, which deals with themes of freedom and the interplay of mortal and supernatural power, gains added power from such a setting.

The production itself – re-set in the Victorian era – situates the action on a transverse stage running along the main aisle of the church. Its great innovation – a powerful and effective one – is to cast the three witches as housemaids; they appear throughout the play, almost unnoticed by the main characters (as housemaids did in the Victorian era). But it’s not just their presence but their performances that make the difference; played with magnetic stillness by Louise Templeton, Bryony Tebbutt and Robyn Holdaway, the witches embody a cool, silent, mocking malignity and are a constant reminder that they are manipulating the humans for their own enjoyment.

Helen Millar excels as Lady Macbeth – embodying the character’s need to appear innocent yet simultaneously be the malignant driver behind Macbeth’s ambition; she constantly reacts to the unfolding situation, which adds a depth and empathy to her character that is often missing in lesser productions; this is particularly noticeable when she realises she has lost control of Macbeth, when he says ‘come seeling night, scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day’. Her relationship with Macbeth (played by Harry Anton) is also managed well; it moves from close and intimate in Act 1 to physical remoteness in the Acts 4 and 5.

Other notable performances come from Andrew Hislop as Macduff, Peter Collis as Banquo – particular in a memorably-staged ‘will the line stretch out to the crack of doom’ confrontation with Macbeth. Robert Bradley’s Ross is the embodiment of smooth, courtly manners which become increasingly incongruous under Macbeth’s murderous regime. As the entire company comprises just ten actors, the playing of multiple roles convincingly is also important – and in this context Chris Courtenay (as Duncan/Seyton/Porter), Nathan Hamilton as Malcolm/Murder, Peter Collis as Banquo/Doctor, Robyn Holdaway as Third Witch/Fleance and Bryony Tebbutt as Second Witch/Lady Macduff) are all excellent. In short, I recommend you buy tickets before it sells out.

 

 

  • Drama
  • By William Shakespeare
  • Directors: Ben Horslen, John Riseboro
  • Cast Includes: Harry Anton, Helen Millar, Andrew Hislop, Louise Templeton, Bryony Tebbutt, Robyn Holdaway
  • Venue: Temple Church, London  
  • Until:  7 September 2019
  • Tuesday-Saturday: 8.00pm; Saturday matinee: 3.00pm ( 2h 10m (inc. interval)

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Dr Aidan Elliott is a writer and writing coach; his YouTube channel (Dr Aidan) focuses on making Shakespeare accessible to everyone, and is watched in 127 countries; he also lectures in Shakespeare Studies at leading UK and US universities.

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