23/08/2011 - 10/09/2011
Macbeth triumphs on the battlefield. He is rewarded with rank and favour by a grateful leader but his mind and spirit are troubled by figures of doom.
The Loons kick into gear with power and style in their production of Macbeth for the Christchurch Arts Festival. It’s a vicious and feral play. Bitter, brooding and dark.
This production is played out in the rubble of a crumbling state with the set designed by Tony Geddes and the text brutally slashed by Joe Bennett.
Following the success of The Butler and Berlin Burlesque, Mike Friend has put together an exciting mix of actors, designers and musicians to create a work amidst the ruins of their home town of Lyttelton.
Hacked script, hacking action, unique production
Review by Elizabeth O’Connor 24th Aug 2011
In the June 13 earthquake in Christchurch, The Loons theatre, which has seen an impressive variety of in-company and outside shows over the last few years, was damaged enough to be red-stickered. Though repairable, the theatre was no longer available for the production of Macbeth commissioned by the Christchurch Arts Festival.
Director Mike Friend and the company chose to continue, rehearse and perform the production on a ‘found’ space in Lyttelton, the rubble-strewn land from which several local business buildings have been cleared, with input from designer Tony Geddes.
This inspired decision not only enriches the whole production in terms of space, atmosphere and physical detail, but also links the play and its underlying currents of the aftermath of war and destruction with the earthquake experiences everyone in Lyttelton and Christchurch has been through. On opening night, the strong applause and feet-drumming at the end recognised a local achievement, an extraordinary example of overcoming nature’s curve-balls, and a powerful if patchy production.
Great immediacy was created by the set – superbly used, in its levels, gradients, surfaces and spaces – and also by the excellent music provided by Hamish Oliver. The sound system itself suffered several glitches on the opening night, and some actors did not speak loudly enough to be picked up by their mics, but the sound effects and music, assisted by Anita Clark and able cast members, were well integrated, and an effective part of keeping the audience engaged through long periods of physical action (or inaction) with no or little dialogue.
Joe Bennett has cut the play to (I read somewhere) 6,000 words. This is a production full of men and sometimes women hacking at each other with a variety of wooden and metal implements, rolling down slopes, falling into pits and water and mud. After the scrapping, which could be in any kind of toxic 20th century conflict, there is boys’ own hugging, parties involving sausages and beer, and later (when Macbeth’s corruption has taken over) tokes and tabs.
It’s not a production where you sit waiting for a favourite scene. Only a couple of times did I feel that the cuts and pastes of text confused the passage of night and day – otherwise the story was carried clearly.
Many characters were conflated. Witches and bereaved/war-stricken women didn’t work for me, but Tom Trevella organising the Sergeant, the Porter, the First Murderer, Macbeth’s sword-bearer and at least one thane into a coherent character, constantly moving the story forward, was a very fine achievement, owing credit to editor, director and actor.
Duncan was clearly and simply delivered by Darryl Cribb. Without his sons and train, Duncan had no real status, so ‘kingship’ was a nebulous notion in the production as a whole.
The witches (Anthea Blanco, Skye Broberg and Lizzie Tollemache) played self-indulgent, substance abusing floozies, with enormous and essential self-confidence. More vocal level from (I think) Broberg would be a help – she was one the mics struggled to pick up.
Banquo (Brian Rick) and his son Fleance (Albi Paterson) together were a little glowing heart of healthy human feeling – though scrapping was still their main activity.
Macduff (Danny Lee Smith) was inaudible and underpowered until he took the decision to fight Macbeth. After that, the volume and energy went up 400 percent.
The children in the production were well-integrated, and spoke or sang clearly without ego or fuss.
As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, David Ladderman and Toni Jones each have much to offer. Ladderman’s impressive physical strength and agility and capacity for ‘attitude’ when it’s needed would probably do wonders in Afghanistan, if he could be brought to follow orders. He spoke his text with understanding, but came across as a scary and sometimes introspective scrapper, rather than a leader, thane or king.
Toni Jones clearly understood all that she said, and delivered it with beautiful clarity, but did not seem to grasp the state of war which had been set up in the opening phrases of the production. She was physically and vocally controlled, even reserved. This could work in a different production of this play. In this production, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth did not seem like a couple and did not seem to be in the same play.
The velocity of the production as a whole carried the audience to the end and to a great response.
This is a production which has truly earned the over-used word “unique”. Despite the reservations I have expressed, I urge you to GO! [The Loons website states “ALL SHOWS NOW SOLD OUT” but you may get lucky on standby – ed.]
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