Macbeth – Mill Theatre – Review by Merel van ‘t Hooft
Weekday Performances until Oct 26th.
Evening Performances: Wednesday 24th October at 7.30pm – Tickets €18/€16
The Mill Theatre’s own production company are performing their version of one of the all-time classics this month: Macbeth. Director Geoff O’Keeffe has taken a fairly classic approach in the staging of Shakespeare’s play, and the production therefore does what it says on the tin, delivering a traditional show. No more and no less. Though a bit more would have been welcomed.
The Mill’s stage has been transformed into a gloomy medieval environment, with a few bare trees, some elevation in the back, and a bloody corpse dangling above the scene, as some kind of macabre omen for the impending doom and dark scenes that are about to unfold here. The play opens strong, with the three witches ominously scurrying around on stage in black hooded robes, giving off an almost dementor-like vibe, with their low, rattling voices and coughs. Their anonymity is a clever trick, for it makes their almost continual presence throughout the play even more eerie. It also allows different actors to portray the witches at different times.
The fact that at least one of the witches can almost always be found in some corner or other of the stage, hidden behind trees or in the shadows, gives them a lot of power, from a narrative perspective. They seem to be in control of almost every situation, manipulating and influencing the characters and events like puppeteers. Although they are genuinely entrancing sometimes, they also have a slightly comedic air to them, like when they magically ‘draw’ the curtains shut for the interval.
The main actors all give solid performances, with Neill Fleming standing out as a truly tormented Macbeth. Nichola McEvilly’s Lady Macbeth captivates most in her famous sleepwalking scene (“Out, damned spot!”), when she appears on the stage white-faced and disturbed. Some of the side characters provide some much-needed comic relief, and are a joy to watch. It’s a shame, however, that a few of the performers spit out their lines with just a little too much speed and ease to them, making some sections seem a little rehearsed and tough to follow.
The sound and lighting design for the production are both on point; they add nice extra dimensions without distracting too much. The costumes are appropriate, and the relatively minimalistic set serves its purpose well. It allows for the setting to be clear without the need for distracting scene changes.
There is not much that can be faulted in this production. It is a faithful rendition of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, and a skilled one at that. There are some nice little gimmicks sprinkled in here and there for a bit of extra spice, but I still couldn’t help but feel myself longing for an unexpected turn, or an unconventional choice somewhere. A little bit of risk here and there might help make the production feel a tad less tame, if a bloody story about power and revenge can ever be called that…