Macbeth

Date 28th July 2023
Society Richmond Amateur Dramatic Society
Venue The Georgian Theatre Royal
Type of Production Play
Director Clare Allen
Written By William Shakespeare

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Author: Richard Hamilton-Leighton

It is always a privilege to witness and enjoy a classic Shakespearian tragedy. This is even more so when it is performed on a stage as authentic as The Georgian Theatre Royal. In my opinion this venue automatically lends itself to Shakespearian performances; with it’s raked stage, and its boxes named after famous playwrights, this is the perfect place for this production.

When I first heard that Richmond Amateur Dramatic Society (RADS) were attempting to modernise and set Macbeth in the 2008 financial crisis, I was eager to see it. I was initially concerned that this would take away the power of the original text, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. RADS likened the corrupting power of unchecked ambition, which is demonstrated within Macbeth, to the financial crisis that plagued the world in 2008. Thank you to Clare Allen for enabling your vision and continuing to make Shakespeare accessible. She did all of this without losing any of its grandeur.

Firstly, I would like to mention the two protagonists (or antagonists, depending on how you view the characters), Macbeth played by Dan Westgarth, and Lady Macbeth played by Rachel Hall. In this retelling, in Act 1 Scene 7, when Lady Macbeth exhorts Macbeth with a plot to murder Duncan, this was done in the boil of their kitchen kettle. This was one of the most impactful scenes demonstrated. It was presented conversationally, like a husband and wife conversing over trivial matters. However, the dark undertones of their characters thirst for success and the corrupting influence of power were being displayed. Well done to Dan and Rachel for demonstrating exceptional acting skill. You made the audience feel that death and corruption were just another matter-of-fact conversation over a nighttime cup of tea.  

The standout performer for me was Rachel Hall. Rachel’s acting ability was natural, and it felt a genuine representation of her character, not a caricature of Lady Macbeth which is often found in amateur productions. ‘The Raven himself is hoarse’ soliloquy in Act 1 Scene 5, was particularly impressive by allowing the audience to feel the characters crippling ambition. This contrasted splendidly in the ‘Out damned spot’ soliloquy from Act 5 Scene 1. You displayed the characters subconscious guilt and allowed the audience to feel her agony and ultimate down fall. Rachel, I feel very grateful to see you fulfil this role.

It was very clear to see that Dan Westgarth understood the brief of playing the character Macbeth. This role portrays many profound depictions of human nature and ego.  His ability to reach into these themes was unparalleled, and his performance was all the better for it. Highlights for me include the soliloquies, ‘Is this a dagger I see before me?’ in Act 2 Scene 1, and ‘To be safe is thus, but to be safely thus’ in Act 3 Scene 1. I must specifically mention Macbeths response to killing Duncan in Act 2 Scene 2 – the gut-wrenching agony you portrayed at the result of your actions was excellent. Your interpretation allowed the audience to feel a kind of sorrow for the ruthless murderer, by understanding it was the influence of others that encouraged this behaviour which led to the almost psychotic need to cling onto the power he attained – Well done! This is no easy feat and was a joy to witness.  

In this production the three witches (Weird Sisters) were presented as cleaners within ‘Scotland Palace Investments’. The tongue and cheek likening to the stirring of the cauldron pot portrayed through the winding of a Henry Hoover cord provided a very welcome comic relief that is not usually present within this play. Along with other comical moments that allowed the audience to take a breath, and I for one enjoyed Suzy Bown’s, Susie Ordish’s, and Carole White’s performance throughout.

Scott Fenney delivered the multifaceted character of Macduff with ease. Firstly, he characterised the very steadfast and astute stockbroker with the juxtaposition a man seeking revenge, steeped in anguish, grief, and loss in Act 4 Scene 3. I felt the characters need for justice after he heard the news of his wife’s death. That scene was a standout! Your versatility and acute skill in acting created a pin drop moment within the theatre – well done. Not only did Scott deliver this scene exceptionally, but it was enriched by Dan Cockett’s truly authentic response to seeing his friend’s breakdown. Dan complimented the scene with a truly reflective, and sorrowful response. You added to the scene without pulling focus. Dan presented well developed and meaningful characters throughout the production. I want to make particular reference to the Porter. Your characterisation allowed some comic relief after some truly dark scenes – well done.

Mike Walker characterised the role of Banquo with skill and panache. I felt as though Banquo was the supportive colleague guiding Macbeths success through giving sound, grounded advice. This made the betrayal of Banquo even more distressing. I particularly enjoyed the ghost of Banquo scene. This was dark and menacing and added even more drama. Well done Mike for this flawless representation of Banquo.

Graeme Mulvey’s portrayal of Malcolm was strong and his speech to rally the troops after fleeing to England was particularly impressive. The use of cocaine to modernise the characterisation was a smart choice. His ascension to King of Scotland was delivered very well as he portrayed the Kingly qualities of ‘courage and fortitude’, upon the backdrop of drama, gluttony, and murder.  Graeme you delivered a rousing performance – well done.

The rest of the company featured: Warnock Kerr as Duncan; Charles Lambert as the Hitman; Max Walker as Fleance; Noah Edwards as Seyton; Jemma Hansom as Lady Macduff; Amelie O’Connor as the PA to Lady Macbeth; Roger Ordish as the Doctor; and Coral Lincoln and Suzie Merritt as Traders. Collectively, you were all able to establish very strong, defined characters which elevated the overall play – well done. Notably, Charles Lambert’s murder of Lady Macduff was incredibly tense and dramatic. I felt agonised as soon as you moved the child’s car seat. It was truly one of the darkest moments of the play.

I feel honoured to have seen this production. Well done to everyone who made this possible. I am excited to see what RADS deliver next after a very good run of well-produced productions.