Shakespeare’s Macbeth opened the 29th season of Bard on the Beach in an intense, classical rendition.
On a blasted heath in medieval Scotland, three women tell a General that he is fated to be the King of Scotland. The image takes hold in his mind and triggers a chain of decisions that lead to the murder of Kings, friends, mothers and their children. Shakespeare’s great study of power and corruption is both terrifying and sublime – and has never been more relevant.
We open with the three witches (Emma Slipp, Kate Besworth, Harveen Sandhu) in all their crazed and rebellious glory. The production started on the right tone of tumultuous intensity.
The director Chris Abraham directed his approach through a series of questions that really grounded many of the roles: do the witches awaken something within Macbeth or do they put something there that wasn’t there in the first place? Have the Macbeths lost a child? How does this loss shape Macbeth’s sense of his own manhood, and Lady Macbeth’s understanding of her life’s purpose?
These questions created a solid understanding of the play and its inner workings for the cast, allowing the audience to see the full world the Macbeth’s live within. It creates bigger questions for the audience to assess their own feelings on agency, patriarchy, fate and free will, and to assess how this plays out in our modern lives.
Despite this fantastic pre-work, the acting occasionally felt a little uncertain. At points, Carlson seemed to be reciting some of his lines instead of capturing the character as he sped through monologues in the first act. Once Banquo’s (Craig Erickson)’s ghost appeared, Macbeth felt a lot more settled.
Moya O’Connell as Lady Macbeth teetered between the hysterical wife and screaming woman, catching the perfect balance between the two. She was over-the-top in all the right ways to heighten the ominous anxiety started by the witches in the first scene. She shined in all of her scenes, capturing all attention.
The rest of the cast performed well in their roles, but it would be hard to find a standout. In classic BotB fashion, Pam Johnson created a simple and flexible set. It creates a strong medieval feel while still managing to work for a 1960’s rendition of As You Like It. Here, Christine Reimer’s costumes shine in keeping with the tone.
Macbeth is a great lead tragedy for Bard to put on this year to satisfy fans of the classics while diversifying and putting on some unique productions throughout the summer. To book tickets, order online through the Bard website or call the Bard Box Office at 604-739-0559or (toll-free) 1-877-739-0559.