Review of Bard on the Beach’s Macbeth Play Interpretation

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Shakespeare’s plays are ageless and action-packed, intense tragedies that are considered as relics in the field of Literature and Theatre. Some of them include Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, etc. The greatest challenge faced by the theatre artists and directors is to articulate and execute such a vast amount of information on stage within a limited period of time. Bard on the Beach’s Macbeth is an exceptional production, successfully putting up such an ambitious interpretation. Right off the bat, Macbeth, a Scottish General (played by Ben Carlson), comes across three uncanny sisters or “witches,” who make a prophecy that he is destined to become the king. Macbeth enlightens his wife regarding the prescience. Consumed by greed and desire, Lady Macbeth, one of the most villainous characters in the history of theatre, influences her husband to murder King Duncan in his sleep when he pays a visit to them. The homicide takes a toll on Macbeth’s state of mind and his paranoia influences him to kill more and more people to avoid suspicion. Lady Macbeth begins hallucinating and sleepwalking and consequently, kills herself overpowered by guilt and sadness. At the end, Macduff kills Macbeth and Scotland gets a new king.

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Chris Abraham's production starts with the whole company banging on the floor. A battle ensues and everybody leaves the stage except for one lamenting woman, who transforms her sobs into a shrieking laughter as the red smoke emerges from the trapdoor located on the stage. With their twisted backs, dreadful looks and unkempt hair, Emma Slipp, Kate Besworth, and Harveen Sandhu playing the role of three weird sisters or witches did a splendid job in bringing a wild, ferocious and feral energy onto the stage, underscored by the ominous music and pounding drums of Owen Belton’s sound design.

One of the finest scenes perfectly put together by Abraham is the sleepwalking scene of Lady Macbeth played by Moya O’Connell, wherein she enters a trance like state and bemoans the murders and sins that she has committed along with her husband, Macbeth. Overwhelmed with guilt, she slowly slides towards madness- desperately trying to wash invisible stains of Duncan’s blood from her hands. O’ Connell did full justice to the role of Lady Macbeth by playing the role of an ambitious, ruthless and manipulative woman. As Macbeth, Carlson portrays a strong desire to claim the throne and his extreme ways of violence and paranoia. Here, Abraham shows the elements of patriarchy, unpacks the concepts of stereotypical manhood, and portrays women as victims. Both Ben Carlson and O’Connell make an excellent compelling couple with a sizzling chemistry on stage. The connection and comfort level between them made the scenes seem more realistic and relatable.

The set designed by Pam Johnson is quite spacious, accommodating many characters at a time with huge wooden doors at the back and a balcony like structure at an upper level. This two-level stage allows natural light to permeate the stage. Gerald King’s light design further enhances the effects of the natural light. King’s lightning effects, especially the red and blue lights in the witch scene add a spark to the eerie atmosphere in the theatre. Christine Reimer’s exquisite dark colored costumes adds a flavor to the roles of various characters, from royal gowns of Lady Macbeth to the tattered clothes worn by the witches. The director chose a perfect set of cast whose powerful voices permeated the walls of the theatre. At the end, the audience cheered and applauded the performance.

Overall, the play is an intense journey highlighting how one’s greed and belief in superstitions leads them to their ultimate end.

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