05/03/2016 - 26/03/2016
The Court Theatre’s Dark Voyage into Corruption and Tyranny
A contemporary, urban staging of Macbeth, Shakespeare’s dark tragedy is set to invade The Court with Mark Hadlow in the lead role.
Artistic Director of The Court and director of Macbeth, Ross Gumbley, has long wanted to stage the play “in a society that has been ravaged by conflict in a long civil war and infused with the sort of images we have seen in recent history in Eastern Europe and the Middle East”.
Gumbley firmly believes that the story of a decorated general who seizes power and then destroys all threats to his authority is starkly relevant.
“Macbeth is almost a ‘how to’ playbook for dictators”, says Gumbley. “Rulers like Stalin and Gaddafi; countries like Syria and Chechnya – the pattern of someone assuming control and transforming into a tyrant has echoed through history.”
“The play is a fascinating study of self-corruption. Once you give yourself license to act on your darkest impulses, where – and how – does it end? Macbeth gives himself that license and as a result his internal conflict is the heart of this tragedy. He’s an incredibly imaginative character, so when he surrenders to his dark thoughts we see up close the toll it takes.” says Gumbley.
Casting Hadlow and Lara Macgregor as Lady Macbeth, was the key. “With Mark as Macbeth, you see a man for whom murder is his last roll of the dice to be King,” says Gumbley. “The best part for us is that Mark’s abilities only get better with age. He can convey the danger and power of Macbeth while simultaneously deeply invoking the audience’s sympathy.”
Macgregor, former Artistic Director of the Fortune Theatre, recently directed The Court season of Winston’s Birthday and last performed with Hadlow at The Court as a married couple in When the Rain Stops Falling. Having also played a couple in Gods of Carnage, Gumbley felt the actors’ chemistry would be perfectly harnessed in the lead roles in Macbeth.
With the leads and creative vision secure, the remainder of the cast fell into place, with Gumbley assembling “a strata of mature actors with a wonderful blend of young actors coming in that gives this production a fantastic energy.”
Numerous actors return to The Court for Macbeth, including Owen Black (who played Malcolm almost twenty years earlier, now playing Macduff); Michael Keir Morrissey and Adam Brookfield. Making their debut at The Court are British actor Tom Peters (with numerous UK stage roles under his belt) as Macbeth’s best friend and comrade Banquo; and New Zealand-born Raewyn Lippert (Game of Thrones, Call the Midwife and Suffragettes) as one of the witches who prophesy Macbeth’s ascension.
“When you delve into Macbeth you unlock doors that lead to other doors, and that’s one reason it’s Shakespeare’s most popularly-produced play – it constantly reinvents itself with each production,” says Gumbley.
“400 years on Macbeth still feels like it was written for today.”
On the Tonkin and Taylor main stage at
The Court Theatre
5 – 26 March 2016
Show sponsored by Toniq
To Book phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz.
Opening Night: Saturday 5th March, 7.30pm
Post Show Forum: Monday 7th March, 6.30pm
Matinee: Saturday 19th March, 2.00pm
Monday & Thursday: 6.30pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday: 7.30pm
Mark Hadlow: Macbeth
Lara Macgregor: Lady Macbeth
Tom Peters: Banquo/Seyton
Owen Black: Macduff
Michael Keir Morrissey: Duncan/Doctor
Tola Newbery: Malcolm/Third Murderer
Barry de Lore: Ross
Adam Brookfield: Lennox/Second Murderer/Siward
Kim Garrett: Lady Macduff/Gentlewoman
Jared Corbin: Angus/First Murderer/ Porter/Lord
Tom Worthington: Fleance/Young Siwald/Macduff’s Son/Servant
Jack Marshall: Donalbain/Menteith/Servant
Raewyn Lippert: First Witch
Kathleen Burns: Second Witch
Brylee Lockhart: Third Witch
Ross Gumbley: Director
Melanie Luckman: Assistant Director
Harold Moot: Set Designer
Tina Hutchison-Thomas: Costume Designer
Giles Tanner: Lighting Designer
Henri Kerr: Sound Designer
Ashlyn Smith: Stage Manager
Christy Lassen: Properties Co-ordinator
Review by Erin Harrington 06th Mar 2016
The Court Theatre’s Macbeth presents Scotland as a dark, apocalyptic and semi-urban ‘no-when’, torn by years of bitter warfare and shaped by banked up gravel and falling snow. Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy is a well-worn crowd pleaser, and this production takes full advantage of the play’s horrors – both supernatural and wholly man-made – in its presentation of a kingdom in the throes of collapse.
Director Ross Gumbley and assistant director Melanie Luckman offer a world in which everything is cold and broken, with even the marching of Birnam Wood taking on a decidedly inorganic bent.
Harold Moot’s set is a marvel: enormous but disintegrating reinforced concrete pillars lean at awkward angles, their faces cracked and pocked with bullet holes, the exposed and rusting twisted steel expressing the violent contortions of the shattered kingdom of Scotland.
Giles Tanner’s stark yet expressive lighting manipulates the darkened spaces formed by these hard and broken edges, while Tina Hutchison-Thomas’s gorgeous costuming combines military utilitarianism with winter’s dark furs and heavy, muted fabrics. I am particularly taken with Henri Kerr’s eerie, throbbing electronic soundscapes, which seem to rip a page straight out of horror auteur and composer John Carpenter’s playbook.
The production also honours the three-as-one nature of the uncanny witches (Kathleen Burns, Raewyn Lippert, and Brylee Lockheart). They are presented as eerie, white-haired, blind-eyed augurs, whose influence is often felt, rather than seen, through the manipulation of sound and lighting.
Mark Hadlow offers a strong Macbeth whose complexity unfolds over the course of the show’s two hours, and I would happily watch Lara Macgregor’s marvellously textured Lady Macbeth all night. The scenes between the two thrum with tension. Coming to the show having seen Macgregor and Hadlow share the stage a number of times offers a wonderful sense of intertextual richness to their relationship.
The cast, on the whole, is a strong ensemble, and some of the character decisions pay off well. In particular, the decision to pitch Banquo (the wonderful Tom Peters) as jocular and swaggering offers well-considered moments of levity but also charts, by comparison, Macbeth’s shift from soldier to murderous autocrat.
This is a coherent, fully-formed world, and there are compelling moments of power and focus – such as Macbeth’s mid-dinner meltdown, Macduff (a nuanced Owen Black) learning of the death of his family, and pretty much anything that Lady Macbeth does – but there are some wrinkles that need to be ironed out.
I had an enormous problem with the slick, break-neck pace of last year’s production of Romeo and Juliet, likewise directed by Gumbley, and here there are some similar instances where interior moments of reasoning and decision-making are lost in the chaos or skated over in the interest of maintaining an action-packed pace. This is especially apparent in earlier parts of the play as Macbeth’s ambition is first sparked and then stoked, and later when we see his ambitions and his willingness to transgress finally overtake the initial avarice of his wife. Too often things just seem to happen, rather than be thought about and then acted upon.
Those who are quite familiar with the play won’t have a problem charting points upon which these key moments pivot, although the people next to me were often whispering quietly to each other as they tried to figure out the details. I suspect that this, along with other issues of clarity and precision, will ease and settle as the production is broken in.
Similarly, a great deal of speech is delivered as actors face upstage, and while this isn’t always an issue – and I’m really fond of the angular blocking, although my more traditionalist companion grumbles about not being able to see faces – those performers without the vocal dexterity and precision of seasoned performers like Mark Hadlow, Tom Peters, Kim Garrett (Lady Macduff) and Lara Macgregor sometimes suffer. There’s a balance to be found, still, between rapid delivery and clear, unmuddied articulation.
None of this gets in the way of the broader enjoyment of the audience though, even in light of the particularly misanthropic and violent interpretation of the ending. The Court’s presentation of Macbeth’s shift from ambitious soldier to tyrannous despot and his ultimately bloody defeat is grimly satisfying.
And yet, given all the effort that has gone into creating this cohesive sense of tone and world, I am baffled as to why it was deemed necessary to have the clownish Porter (Jared Corbin) deliver an aside to the audience about the opaqueness of some of the 400 year-old jokes. While this scene functions in the script as an almost outrageous juxtaposition of drunken tomfoolery with the murder of the King, this is a bizarre and jarring addition, utterly at odds with the tenor of the production.
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