“An enchanting re-telling of Shakespeare’s tragedy…

St Chad’s Chapel is illuminated by candlelight for the opening night of Macbeth, an enchanting re-telling of Shakespeare’s tragedy directed by Samantha Dotson. From the get-go, the immense effort put into this play to transport the audience to the Shakespearean era is evident with the setting of the chapel and use of a live choir underscore to create a gothic vibe.

Firstly, kudos to the team for choosing the chapel for the set design and location of the play, an apt choice that added more flavour to the storytelling with its medieval setting. It helps that the seating to the sides, with actors performing at the front and middle of the chapel, allowing the audience to be fully absorbed into each and every scene. The lighting used (Tom Burman) is phenomenal, with a colour palette in line with the emotion of each scene, spotlights for character monologues and lovely candle lights on the furniture that glittered in the dark room during fade-outs. This, coupled with powerful sound design and a sparing use of smoke creates a mesmerising atmosphere.

It goes without saying that a Shakespearean play demands a strong acting calibre and powerful voices. George Thomas and Khaliun Mark as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are perfectly cast for the roles. Thomas has great command over his intense (and difficult!) lines and depicts his emotions with subtlety. Moments of fear and dilemma are portrayed with the same amount of ease as moments of drunk power, and the shift in emotion is wonderfully done. Mark absolutely shines as Lady Macbeth, carrying moments of cunningness and absolute madness effortlessly. Her voice is powerful, almost coming from the bottom of the heart, and she shares great chemistry with the lead. Both actors shine tremendously in monologue scenes, captivating the audience with effective acting and great clarity in dialogues.

Elizabeth Lea, Noah Lazarides, Emilia Lewis and Cara Crofts all portray their roles wonderfully. I particularly enjoyed Lazarides’ royal performance of Duncan, who also pulled off plenty of good dialogue. Ross Patey and Emma Rowson as Macduff and Lady Macduff are also well suited for the roles and share a lot of stage time with Harry Threapleton (Malcolm) and Edward Clark (Ross). The world-building and relationships between the characters are established organically and everyone works strongly together as a unit. Scenes between Patey and Threapleton were lovely to watch as they scheme how to dethrone Macbeth together along with the rest of the cast.

Much praise goes to Hecate and the witches, portrayed brilliantly by Eleanor Steele, Alicja Zon, Katie Bainbridge and Meg Thomson. They really got into the skin of the characters, crawling around the purple-lit room with ghostly eyes and even trying to scare the audience here and there with their eerie voices! These were performances that definitely sent shivers down the spines of the viewers…

The costume design is simple yet sufficient, and the props used are elegant as well. The cauldron used by the witches was designed beautifully, as was the use of smoke in haunting and hallucination scenes. I personally liked the symbolism of the blood-red gloves of Macbeth after he commits murder, which he continues to wear till the end. Even the simplest scenes such as a march to the throne for crowning and sword-fighting were directed effectively and the backstage team definitely deserves a pat on the back for all their efforts.

If I had to nit-pick, certain scenes of grief and revelation could be acted slightly better and very few dialogues in the beginning and after the interlude are inaudible due to the volume of the live choir but these tiny issues do not take away from the whole cake, which is truly delicious!

A huge thanks to 12 South Theatre and Green Door Theatre for collaborating, delivering, and doing justice to this wonderful piece!

By Akash Sivakumar

Macbeth will continue to show at 19:30 in St Chad’s College Chapel, 18 North Bailey, Durham DH1 3RH from Thursday 22nd February to Saturday 24th February

Photo Credits: 12 South Theatre Company and Green Door Theatre Company