Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

26/05/2010 - 05/06/2010

Production Details


Hot off the smash success of The Who’s Rock Musical ‘Tommy’ Stage Two’s James Wenley adapts, directs and showcases Macbeth’s wicked scheming as it collides with the modern underbelly of the criminal world, the sordid night time city scene and the cunning supernatural forces belonging to ambiguous ladies of the night, more formally recognised as witches.

Wenley’s version, of what is superstitiously known as ‘The Scottish Play’, includes a post-apocalyptic like setting, subversive performances of hit pop songs and hallucinogenic visions of what might have been, however he claims he is still staying faithful to Shakespeare’s text and themes.

‘Concepts like power, ambition, greed, regret and revenge don’t just belong to the Elizabethans’ he says, ‘look around you, they are still utterly relevant in modern society, they are in your social hierarchies, your homes and your hearts.’

With a seventeen member cast Stage Two’s Macbeth showcases the talent of many Auckland University students and alumni, among them, Luke Thornborough as Macbeth (The Libertine, Richard III), who accompanied by Witch Ashleigh Rose Keating has performed at The Globe Theatre in London, Sophia Panayiodou as Lady Macbeth (Suburbia, Virgin Party) and Patrick Graham (Titus Andronicus, White Trash Omnibus, Pink Lighter). 

Professor Tom Bishop, Head of the English Department at Auckland University praises the play: “Macbeth is the shortest and most concentrated of Shakespeare’s tragedies and he steeps this brutal tale in an atmosphere of spectral fears.” 

Wenley aims to drive each and every audience member to see themselves in Macbeth. ‘This play is effective because it is about a character that is neither completely evil nor completely good,’ says Wenley. ‘He makes a mistake, it is part of the human condition to commit error and to be susceptible to persuasion, especially when it is coming from the very forceful and sexy Lady Macbeth!’

As Shakespeare critic Harold Bloom puts it ‘the little Macbeth within each theatregoer can be tempted to surmise a murder or two of her or his own’. Presented by Stage Two Productions and Theatre of Love in association with the Univeristy of Auckland Post-graduate Drama program, Macbeth opens on Wednesday 26th May and runs till Saturday 5th June at The Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre. Murder, prophecy and a dance floor…how far would you go?

Dates: Wed 26th until Sat 5th June, 7:30pm (No show Monday) 
Venue: Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre 
Tickets: $15 Concession / $20 Adults from the Maidment Box Office
09308 2383  

MACBETH: Luke Thornborough
LADY MACBETH: Sophia Panayiodou
SEYTON/HECATE: Patrick Graham
WITCH ONE: Francesca Lyon
WITCH TWO: Ashleigh-Rose Keating
MACDUFF: Nick Gray
DUNCAN/DOCTOR: Phillip White
MALCOM: Tom Carlyle
ROSS: Hannah Bartlett
LENNOX: Jake Allen
MACDUFF’s SON: Sam Verlinden

Creatives & Crew
Stage Manager: Callum Rolland
Publicity: Kristina Hard
Technical Head: Sam Mence
Lighting Crew: Chesney McDonald, Charlotte Taylor, Eddie Loeffen, Adam Roland
Set Design: Ashleigh Wilding
Costume Design: Ashleigh Wilding & Alishia Henry
Makeup: Nandan Bhatt, Claire Bailey, Rebecca Deed

Ultimately superficial interpretation

Review by Nik Smythe 30th May 2010

The Bard of Avon’s shortest tragedy, well known to anyone in my generation who did sixth form, is given a right going over by director/adaptor James Wenley and company. In modernising the classic parable of murderous ambition as a self-fulfilling prophecy, Wenley has also transformed the gritty supernatural thriller into an absurdist black comedy.

The set design has a distinct postmodern neo-corporate pseudo-industrial fusion going on, complete with well-stocked bar, cracked glass colour-flashing centre stage dance floor and a smallish video display above the crude, undecorated upstage scaffold. 

The three witches appear as vampish sexworkers: Alyssa, the sultry dark one (Francesca Lyon); Lucy, the hyper-skittish vixen (Ashleigh-Rose Keating); and the flamboyant trannie (Jarrod Lee). The kings and soldiers are presented as sharp-suited executives and gun-toting mavericks. 

As Macbeth, Luke Thornborough works hard to exude the status of the haunted anti-hero. Although he begins to overly resemble a babyfaced Brian Blessed, he gains a little more strength of character as his psychosis increases. This is even more the case with Nick Gray’s Macduff, a tough young lout who comes closest to seeming genuinely threatening when driven to raging vengeance upon his betrayers. Occasionally Thornborough turns a random phrase with a slightly Scottish lilt but never really commits to it.

Sophia Panayiodo’s Lady Macbeth is haughtily attractive with a thirst for ambition, as the role dictates. Phillip White is feared and respected as the ill-fated King Duncan, and returns in act four as the amusing Scottish physician presiding over Lady M’s famous somnambulant episodes. But the main comic relief is Patrick Graham’s dual roles of Seyton the gate porter slash cheeky butler and Hecate the head witch slash pimp slash drag queen diva. 

In many cases the admittedly difficult text is not really owned by believable characters. Also, an unfortunate side effect of striking the black curtains from the stage is the resulting acoustic echo, making the highly poetic dialogue a struggle to comprehend. I feel it would be fairly impossible to follow the events of the story for anyone not already familiar with the text.

I must confess, I basically don’t understand Wenley’s interpretation. The production on the whole is ultimately superficial, playing with ideas that don’t quite manifest in a believable way. And I don’t get the significance of Cyndi Lauper and Donna Summer’s classic anthems, among other things.


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