Review: Macbeth

The Australian Shakespeare Company present Macbeth

By Samuel Barson

Shakespeare in the park and under the stars. It seems like an idyllic way to watch the work of such a beloved playwright. Unfortunately, in the case of Australian Shakespeare Company’s production of Macbeth, not even the magic elements of a balmy Melbourne night could save it from several elements of mediocrity.

Macbeth depicts the damaging physical and psychological effects that seeking power for power’s sake can have on an individual. The famous tale of power, greed and war was led this time around by Nathanial Dean in the titular role of Macbeth and powerhouse Alison Whyte as Lady Macbeth. In their driving roles, Dean and Whyte both excelled in the bigger moments of the play. The bigger moments being the play’s famous monologues. They tackled their respective monologues with ferocity and intensity, clearly understanding and appreciating the prose they were speaking. The smaller moments however, in which emotions and the stakes perhaps weren’t so high, drifted by and regrettably were overshadowed. Their decision to only put their energy into big soliloquies meant their characters were not as fleshed out as they could have been.

Among the supporting cast standout performances can be credited to Annabelle Tudor, Madeleine Mason and Syd Brisbane as the three witches – their energy and approach to the language was marvellous and exciting. Brisbane also brought what was perhaps the highlight of the night with a particularly hilarious portrayal of the much loved Porter role. The remaining characters were disappointing for the most part. It seemed there was a lack of clarity and understanding in both the scenes and dialogue. The rhythm of their speech rarely varied, meaning that moments went by unnoticed and engagement was lost.  

The design of the production was delightful, especially when the sun had fully set and the splendid lighting bounced off the surrounding trees and gardens, creating a unique theatrical atmosphere to be a part of. Glenn Elston and Peter Amesbur’s lighting design was undoubtedly the highlight of the production. Andrew Nielsen’s sound design also provided some quality moments which brooded and seethed, especially in the scenes where Macbeth and his wife found themselves haunted by their actions.

Although the performances were not as strong or memorable as they could have been, the design brought an undeniably magical quality to this production that makes for a fun and unique night out at the theatre. Director Glenn Elston and the team have created a theatrical world well worth a visit during this festive summer season.

Make sure to bring bug spray! Mosquitoes love Shakespeare and they’re definitely out to play.

Macbeth is being performed until 23 February at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 8676 7511. 

Photograph: Nicole Cleary