THEATER REVIEW: This classic story has been masterfully brought to life at the Pieter Torien Theatre. Gayle Edmunds couldn't get enough of it.
Pieter Torien Theatre at Montecasino
R100 to R180 at computicket.com
Runs until September 9
Cape Town - Foul and gory, dark and treacherous, chock-full of ill-intent and murderous ambition – this is what fans of Shakespeare expect as a bare minimum from a production of The Scottish Play.
Fred Abrahamse and Marcel Meyer deliver this and more in their six-hander adaptation of Macbeth. Meyer, who takes on the eponymous role, is superb as the treasonous Macbeth, whose vanity and arrogance lead him from decorated war hero to paranoid tyrant, steeped in the entrails of his comrades.
The all-male cast of six whip in and out of multiple characters each, which is one of the trademarks of Abrahamse and Meyer’s work.
With the aid of puppets, masks and simple costume changes Stephen Jubber morphs from Duncan to Macduff, and Tristan de Beer from Third Witch to Lady Macbeth, to Fleance. Tailyn Ramsamy meanwhile takes on the roles of Banquo and Lady Macduff. The final members of the cast are Matthew Baldwin (First Witch, Malcolm, Murderer and Ross) and Jeremy Richard (Second Witch, Donalbain, Porter and Murderer).
Richard does a masterful job of the role of the porter – in such a relentlessly blood-soaked tale he is the comic relief and Richard gets the laughs in all the right places. Richard and Baldwin were both previously in Hamlet, the last of the Bard’s plays Meyer and Abrahamse adapted.
De Beer – like the original staging when women weren’t allowed on stage – must first overcome not being a woman to play Lady Macbeth, he does so admirably. He captures all the pathos, tragedy and malevolence of this woman forced to drive her ambition through the proxy of her husband, only to discover that the price is madness.
Abrahamse, who ably directs, also did the set and lighting design. Simple and effective, the stage is dominated by a long black banqueting table with stark black plastic chairs around it. When the audience enters the theatre the cast are all sitting, pantomiming a feast. The test of any good Macbeth is in the portrayal of the three witches – they are well done with animal skulls and gnarled horns, the three women float in the swirling smoke that covers the stage, setting the tone for a chilling tale.
The lighting too is spartan, the stage is kept dark and misty, with blasts of harsh light for emphasis. The wings are unused, rather there is a black curtain at the back of the stage where characters appear and disappear like apparitions. Abrahamse and Meyer designed the costumes with a red and black palette, which are black leather kilts with a splash of red tartan for some, while others get metal detail and all wear knee-high boots.
The costumes and the mist keep the play’s sense of place throughout, and the staging comes together to give form to the fear and paranoia that underlies this sinister tale of greed and bloodlust.
If you have children studying Shakespeare – any of it – you want them to see this production. It is true to the original text, yet reimagined ingeniously for a new audience.
(Photos: City Press)