Image courtesy Queen's Theatre Hornchurch
Cast and creatives
Rikki Chamberlain - Angus/ Porter
Martin Johnson - Duncan/Doctor/Old Man
Adam Karim - Banquo
Danielle Kassaraté - Lady Macduff/ 2nd Witch
Daniel Kendrick - Captain/Seyton
Colette McNulty - 3rd Witch/Donalbain/ Murderer 2/ Youn soldier
David Nellist - Ross/Murderer 1
Ewan Somers - Macduff
Phoebe Sparrow - Lady Macbeth
Paul Tinto - Macbeth
Connie Walker - 1st Witch/Gentlewoman
Tilda Wickham - Malcolm
Battles. Murder. Ghosts. And desire …
Three witches on a heath have a disturbing prophecy for a victorious warrior.
Macbeth will be king of Scotland.
As this wicked seed is planted, daring Macbeth and his determined wife Lady Macbeth draw bloody daggers and set out on a fateful path.
But seizing the crown comes at a terrible price, as guilt grows, enemies draw close and the fight for survival hurtles towards a tragic conclusion …
This epic and intensely terrifying period version of Shakespeare's most regal and timeless classic warns of the effects of political ambition on those who seek power for its own sake.
Directed by Douglas Rintoul, following his acclaimed productions of Much Ado About Nothing and UK tour of The Crucible - 'serious theatre, seriously done'(The Stage) - and after this Summer's highlight adaptation of As You Like It: A Queen's Theatre Hornchurch partnership with the National Theatre.
This co-production with Derby Theatre follows the successful collaborations on Abigail's Party, Abi and One Man, Two Guvnors.
It's been an exciting and rewarding time recently for the highly skilled and dedicated team at Queen's Theatre Hornchurch.
The venue won the London Theatre of the Year award in the prestigious Stage Awards for 2020 (announced only a few days ago on 31 January).
That's hardly a surprise to me for this is a welcoming and exceptionally well-run theatre that sets high professional standards delivering top-notch shows to local residents and those who happily transit from the further reaches of the capital to see their work.
And Queen's Theatre has also been undergoing a £1 million refresh with both front of house and the more hidden spaces in the building getting a facelift.
That cements the future comforts of theatre-goers and provides better facilities for actors and the many creatives who fetch-up at this highly productive venue.
Even at a mid-week performance (the day after the official opening night) there was a packed house for this version of Macbeth - a co-production with Derby Theatre that is also destined to tour to New Wolsey Theatre and Perth Theatre too.
The audience was augmented on this occasion with two bus loads of school students, suggesting that Shakespeare's early seventeenth century play might be on the exam schedule again.
The students - all immaculately attentive throughout the 150 minute running time - probably knew far more about the play than a man behind me who didn't seem to know what he'd come to see.
I suspect that many of the locals in this neck of the woods book tickets in bulk to see the theatre's shows, perhaps not always knowing what they're going to experience.
Still, in spite of its appearance in the curriculum, Macbeth is nonetheless a famously important work examining the (always topical) subject of the corrupting properties of power and deserves reviving regularly.
That didn't stop a handful of people leaving the theatre at the interval, but the vast majority remained, seemingly contented, for the duration.
With Queen's Theatre's artistic director, Douglas Rintoul, in charge of proceedings, this was never going to be anything but a seriously rigorous and thought-through production.
And so it proves to be, even if it's a fairly standard interpretation that resists being arm-twisted into inculcating the play with potentially grating, forced modernity.
That said, there's a hint of the modern in the costume design with much chain mail on display that is more sparkly than the dull grey we normally see in museums or history books.
Occasionally presented without a trace of a Scottish accent, Paul Tinto as Macbeth hails from Scotland's West Coast so has more than ample background to provide authenticity and there are other Scottish voices lending support.
Bearded and with hair shaved at the sides, Mr Tinto presents us with something of a bruiser of a man and rightly so, since Macbeth is essentially a powerful fighter used to taking orders and doing his worst (or best) on the battlefield.
Described by his wife as 'too full of the milk of human kindness" to be a political opportunist it's hardly any wonder that he's easily convinced by the predictions of some weird witches and the exhortations of his wife into killing his king and taking the reigns of power for himself.
Riddled with insecurity and guilt, he becomes a tyrant forced to take extreme measures by killing off potential rivals as well as Macduff's entire family and household in a bloodbath, and thus firmly sealing his tragic demise and that of his wife.
An empty stage greets us at the start of the play and apart from a long wooden table and a throne to represent the authority of the king, there's little scenery apart from a sliding back wall inset with a door and hints of the castle represented by cut-out, cross-shaped holes.
The declaration that "Life's but a walking shadow" finds echoes throughout thanks to highly effective lighting design from Daniella Beattie.
Battle scenes are played out as shadow sequences and witches vanish almost instantaneously into darkness.
In the acting department, Paul Tinto finds all the right mix of qualities - guilt, rage, anger and the like - in an impressive and well-delivered portrayal of Macbeth.
He's well supported by an amply able company with especially strong work from Ewan Somers as a powerful Macduff and Phoebe Sparrow as Lady Macbeth who morphs almost effortlessly from goading her husband into murder and later succumbing to night terrors through guilt.
And Bethan Clark's fight direction is worthy of note, especially in the final scene between Macduff and Macbeth where they wield their imposing weapons to highly convincing effect.
Though this version of Macbeth isn't a radical departure in terms of overall presentation, it's nonetheless scrupulously directed, well-acted and enhanced with some neat technical elements that still allow the undeniable power of Shakespeare's work to stand out.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Queen's Theatre Hornchurch
Our show listing for Macbeth
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