As Director Saro Lusty-Cavallari notes, Macbeth is a play which “exists in our cultural memory as a story suffused in darkness.” All the more chilling, then, to enter a theatre space draped in white; this the setting for the “violent fever dream” about to play out before us.
It is a dream which, more often than not, borders on nightmare.
Lusty-Cavallari, as Director and Designer for this half of Montague Basement’s Shakespeare double-bill, has created a thrilling piece of work. This Macbeth uses contrast to excellent effect, juxtaposing black and white and then disturbing any semblance of normality with harsh, and often harshly wrought, streaks of red. It is a simple vision, but (excepting some difficult-to-determine character changes) it works. The sound design also deserves credit for its fatalistic drum beats and claps, which kept us on edge for the inevitable fall.
As to that fall, Robert Boddington gives us a humble and conscience-bound Macbeth whose transformation into murderous tyrant is equal parts tragic and horrific. Though Boddington seemed less sure through the stages of Macbeth’s downward spiral, his beginning and his end were solid performances of two very different men, and that is to the actors great credit. As his loving and ambitious Lady, Hannah Cox moves through the play like flowers in a roughening breeze; she sways, manipulates, submits, stands again, and finally snaps, both a villain undone and a woman lost.
Travis Ash presents a delightfully philosophical Duncan who moves with grace and age, oblivious to his enemies and plainly undeserving of his fate. Ash is gentle but deliberate, and this confidence carries over to his other smaller roles, such as the young son of Macduff. Alex Anne Francis is a solemn Banquo, if challenged by the role of a man. Barret Griffin and Jem Rowe, as Ross and Malcolm respectively, are sincere and compassionate, a soothing balm to the vices of their surrounds. And Lulu Howes, whose progressively bloody visage leaves us with no comforting fallacies, is gracious and gruesome as the Witch, ensnaring us with her language as much as her calm chaos.
Montague Basement’s Macbeth is an unforgiving take on one of Shakespeare’s most bloody plays. In that regard, they have honoured the Bard well. It is a pleasure to see such young actors reach such heights, or at least appear to – after all…
“Nothing is but what is not.”