A Sophisticated Macbeth at Bard on the Beach (Guest Review by @NiftyNotCool)

Patrons of this summer’s Bard on the Beach are in for an aesthetic surprise as director Miles Potter and scene and costume designers Kevin McAllister and Mara Gottler show us a cool and sophisticated Macbeth on the festival’s BMO Mainstage.

Macbeth - Photo by David Blue

Your 12th-grade English class imaginings of a blood-soaked berserker Scot this ain’t. Every element, from the design’s clean lines to Potter’s direction, show us a Mr. and Lady Macbeth (played by Bob Frazer and Colleen Wheeler) that are less like the hot-blooded murderers of common portrayals and more like the icy couple in the perfect house down the street–all smiles in the neighbourhood but full of dirty secrets behind closed doors. As Macbeth himself says, “False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” (1.7.93).

With this interpretation in mind it is as if the doors of Macbeth’s castle have been blown open, and the cool grey stone of the interior becomes a barren and windswept landscape in which this powerful couple struggles to find each other. An important question that any director of Macbeth must answer with his leading actor and actress is that of the relationship between Macbeth and his wife. Who is the more ambitious? Are they in love/in hate/indifferent? In Potter’s Macbeth, we see a couple whose relationship seems all but cooled until the possibility of greatness presents itself. What barren couple, suffering under the mediocrity of frustrated ambition and trapped in a hierarchy that allows talented men to climb only so high and no higher (and women the ability only to excel through their husbands), wouldn’t jump at the chance to become something more, or better, than they had been? Who could resist the temptation to rule once the idea presented itself?

It is this question which lies at the heart of this production of Macbeth. In the haunted banquet scene we see a household ripped open, and know that nothing in this couple’s world will ever again be at peace. The direction and design lift this play from its medieval nightmare into the sleek and chilly heart of contemporary ambition.

(NB: I really must give a nod to actor John Murphy, whose portrayal of the Porter brings Shakespeare’s dagger sharp humour wickedly to life.)

Macbeth will be playing on the BMO Mainstage in Vanier Park, Tuesdays to Sundays, until September 20. Tickets can be purchased by contacting the box office at 604-739-0559 or by visiting Bard’s website at www.bardonthebeach.org. For a complete schedule of performances, please visit Bard’s Schedule page.

Disclosure: Lauren Kresowaty is reviewing this 2012 summer’s Bard on the Beach season in exclusive for Hummingbird604.com, and as such, she attended this performance (and will attend the rest of the season) on media tickets kindly provided by Bard on the Beach. No review is requested from either of us, nor a favorable one is expected either (in the case of a review actually being written). As always I (Raul) retain full editorial control on anything published on my site.

Lauren Kresowaty (NiftyNotCool) is a writer, theatre artist, and blogger based in East Vancouver. She posts weekly on her personal blog, NiftyNotCool.com, and tweets from @niftynotcool. Lauren is currently working on an adaptation of the Greek tragedy “The Libation Bearers” for her friends in Rice & Beans Theatre and following her imagination wherever it leads.. You can get in touch with Lauren by commenting on a post on her site or following her on twitter.

Related posts:

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  2. King John Opens at Bard on the Beach (Guest review by @NiftyNotCool)
  3. Macbeth (Bard on the Beach) [win tickets!]
  4. The Taming of the Shrew (Bard on the Beach, Summer 2012)
  5. Othello (Bard on the Beach) [theatre review]

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