Like the Macbeths themselves, the audience are held captive to the horrors of the couple’s murderous endeavours. With suffocating intensity, we are drawn into the private conversations of Macbeth (Lucianne McEvoy) and Lady Macbeth (Charlene Boyd) as together they scheme, suffer their guilt, and gradually slip into madness. Director Dominic Hill’s choice to use a simple bedroom setting is so closely intimate that the audience feels they are eavesdropping upon something forbidden. It is uncomfortable and challenging to watch, but the effect does ultimately work!
With growing intensity, the production becomes an assault on the audience’s senses and emotional capacity; a blaring voice over an amplifier, harsh flickering lights, and enough blood to make your stomach churn. Stereotypically, (but faithfully to Shakespeare’s script) blood is used to symbolise guilt. ‘Blood will have blood’ is indisputably a major key theme. As the Macbeths become further embroiled, the bedsheets onstage become increasingly bloodied.
McEvoy’s portrayal of Macbeth is faultless. She brings vulnerability, power and passion to her role. Her commanding voice is captivating to listen to; her monologues are engrossing and require very little embellishment with soundtracks, lighting changes or choreography. Occasionally, an unnecessary tension-building soundtrack is used to fill silences. This silence was held emphatically, maintaining the audience’s attention fully and not allowing the performance to drag. Playing Macbeth female neither added nor took away from the chemistry between the couple. It was clear that the actresses had carefully considered the dynamics of their roles, knowing one another’s every move and responding to one another in spontaneously exciting, yet natural ways.
The text itself is cleverly edited to relate a coherent narrative, but is stripped of all moments of relief, leaving only the most impactful passages. At times, the production is forced to find an alternative means of filling in the gaps of omitted characters or scenes. This is largely achieved using an old-fashioned tape-recorder to deliver the haunting witch’s prophecies and taunt Macbeth with recordings of his murders. Like most production aspects of ‘The Macbeths’, it is simple and effective up to a point, where we long for a new creative solution.
This play is not for the fainthearted. Twisted and merciless, Hill presents a brave dissection of one of Shakespeare’s most fearful partnerships.