Shakespeare's tragic history of Macbeth is a play that many are familiar with, if only from struggling through it at school: the timeless tale of ambition, destiny, guilt, murder and madness; of the equally swift ascent and descent of Scotland's king, Macbeth. The autumn season at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre opens with a production of this play, following on from acclaimed performances of Hamlet, starring John Simm and Othello with Clarke Peters & Dominic West.
I attended the Public Dress Rehearsal last evening, and was part of a packed house. For the first time that I can remember the theatre was completely in the round, with seats where the back-stage area usually is, and the performance area central. The set was sparse but effective: a circle of stones around the outside, with an area that could be raised later to fashion a table for the banquet scene. The lighting was well designed and effective.
The performances, I have to say, were mixed. Andrew Jarvis came across well as Duncan, the Old Man and Siward; the two local youngsters, Joseph Pass (Fleance) and particularly Ethan Carley as Macduff's son also performed well; and Christopher Logan, who took seven parts in the play, effused as the drunken porter and camped it up as Hecate. John Dougall as Macduff, I'm afraid, seemed to shout rather than project, and much of his dialogue was lost as a result. Other cast members, on the whole, put in creditable performances.
Of the principals, both Claudie Blakley as Lady Macbeth and Geoffrey Streatfeild as the troubled king sadly came across just a little flat, delivering their lines but at times just that. I and others left the theatre a little disappointed, feeling relieved that we had only paid £1 for the night. I have come to expect better from Daniel Evans' direction: I hope that, as the run goes on, other will not be as disappointed as I sadly was.