The Mound Lawn, Mona Vale Gardens, Christchurch

11/02/2015 - 21/02/2015

Christchurch SummerTimes Festival 2015

Production Details

For this year’s Summer Shakespeare Festival, TOP DOG THEATRE strays from its usual path of presenting another comedy, and will instead portray the treacherous deeds and mysterious happenings of MACBETH. This year’s show is directed by Derek Doddington.

Set in Scotland, mainly within and without the Castle of Macbeth, Mona Vale will be transformed for this great tragedy of greed, fate and treason all culminating in the ultimate fear and madness of Macbeth and his wife.

“When shall we three meet again” opens the play, as the three witches confront Macbeth with a prophesy that he will one day become King of Scotland. Ambition and treachery abound as Macbeth is persuaded by his callous and ambitious wife to eliminate all those who stand in their way. Macbeth leaves a wake of bloodied daggers, deceived friends and brutal murders, as he, filled with guilt and insecurity, strives to protect that which he has taken unlawfully. And then, the madness sets in. Banquo’s bloodied ghost haunts Macbeth. “Out damn spot”, cries Lady Macbeth as her conscience tortures her, and she imagines her hands are covered with blood.

(Not recommended for children under 8 years of age)
Come early. Security-patrolled Parking
Toilets and refreshments are available on site.
Come sit on a picnic blanket, (at the front) or low/high chair (seating is segregated for audience viewing) and remember to bring plenty of warm clothing.

The Mound Lawn, Mona Vale Gardens, Christchurch
6pm Nightly, + 2pm Saturday Matinees
Tickets are $15 ($10 concession), available on the gate, or from;

First Witch:  Frances Campbell 
Second Witch:  Pauline Wood  
Third Witch:  Elizabeth Grubb 
4th Witch:  Neve Billing  
5th Witch:  Annabel Brodie
6th Witch:  Ruth Johnson 
7th Witch:  Lisa Dixon 
8th Witch:  Lara Thomson 
Duncan:  Raoul Neave 
Malcolm:  Paddy Scott 
Captain:  Matthew Alan Joils 
Lennox:  Andrew Scott 
Ross:  Nick Cheesebrough 
Macbeth:  Charles Grubb 
Banquo:  Adam Hayward 
Angus:  Andrew Bolitho 
Lady Macbeth:  Anna Willow 
Messenger Seyton:  Crisstian Grueber 
Fleance:  Ollie Fradd 
Porter:  Russell Haigh 
Macduff:  Dan Crossen 
Donaldbain:  Matthew Alan Joils 
Lady Macbeth Doctor:  Nikki Bleyendaal 
1st Murderer:  Tim Robson 
2nd Murderer:  Feroze Brailsford 
Lady Macduff:  Andie Hanson 
Son / daughter:  Emma Reynolds 
Menteith:  Russell Haigh 
Caithness:  Giles Wood 
Siward:  Raoul Neave 
Siward Son:  Matthew Alan Joils 
Understudy - Lady Macbeth Doctor:  Paige Delaney 

Musical Director:  Robert Tait 
Technical:  Rob van de Water
Technical:  Frank Connor
Technical:  Nick Murchison
Stage Manager:  Eloise McIntyre
Make-up:  Pip Stevenson
Director:  Derek Doddington
Props:  Maddy Albertson
Props:  Julian Southgate
Set :  Matt Lang  

Hedging its bets?

Review by Erin Harrington 12th Feb 2015

Top Dog Theatre has been presenting outdoor Shakespeare productions on the lovely manicured lawns of Mona Vale since 2005, and this year’s production of Macbeth marks the first time that they have offered up one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. It’s a great choice for an outdoor show: it’s comparatively quite short, the action cracks along, and there is enough of a sense of familiarity about it that even the Shakespeare novice can find their way through the story. 

The large cast ranges in experience, and the veteran actors provide generous support to those who are new to acting and to Shakespearean prose. The entire team demonstrates focus and commitment.

Some of the key players, including Macbeth (Charlie Grubb), Banquo (Adam Hayward), MacDuff (Dan Crossen) and Malcolm (Paddy Scott) are strong, although Grubb’s Macbeth swings between Kiwi-casual, troubled and jocular in a rather peculiar fashion. At the outset of the show there is a warm rapport between Banquo and Macbeth, and this really helps draw the audience into the action.

The three witches, too, waver between two poles as high, screeching camp gives way to sombre menace, and some of their speech is lost behind cackles. The choice to have masked witches, as invisible agents of the supernatural, present in many of the scenes doesn’t always augment the action, but it’s certainly an effective way of visually expressing the malevolent influence of the supernatural.

These inconsistencies of characterisation and tone are present throughout much of the play, and there isn’t always a clear sense that individual scenes exist along a narrative continuum.

I am most fond of the work done by Lady Macbeth (Anna Willow) and Lady Macduff (Andie Hanson). Both performances are affecting, focussed and nuanced, and each actor takes full advantage of the depth of her role. The porter (Russell Haigh) provides some great comic relief half-way through. 

The set features a few key set pieces (Matt Lang and Maddy Albertson) – the Macbeths’ lovingly furnished bedroom, rocks for the witches’ lair, trellis and a gate indicating the castle walls – and the players, as directed by Derek Doddington, make good use of the wide lawn at Mona Vale. There are some creative pieces of staging, largely involving the nearly ever-present band of witches.  

Pre-recorded and live music (MD Robert Tait, who has also composed the music for the witches’ singing) and sound (Frank Connor) contribute to a clear sense of tone and place. Given that the performers are competing with trains, traffic and wind, the sound and microphone quality is very good. In general the speech is clear, although sometimes rushed.

The traditional costuming (uncredited), ghastly make-up (Pip Stephenson) and well-designed props (Maddy Albertson) work together to finish off what is a very well presented package. 

All up, though, I struggle with this production, and my companion, who isn’t really into theatre but who quite likes Shakespeare, is pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. One hand, it’s a lovely way to spend an evening, the performers are clearly enjoying what they are doing, and a peer around at the audience indicates that people are quite absorbed with the action, even though the wind is bitterly cold.

By the end of the production, too, most of the issues I have with the characterisation, the through-lines of the plot and direction are largely resolved, and I feel quite engaged. In particular, Lady Macbeth’s dissolution and MacBeth’s response, and the tragic fate of MacDuff’s family and his choice to avenge them, kick off the final half hour with a clear sense of purpose and a high level of energy – although I wish that this sense of purpose and clarity had been there from the beginning.

On the other hand, I find this production of Macbeth to be an inconsistent and often frustrating show. It has a wavering focus and a remarkably casual attitude towards character development, and it focusses on small moments and pieces of blocking and direction at the expense of broader issues of pacing, story and theme. Overall it lacks the sturm und drang (storm and stress) inherent in the script. 

I get the sense that this show is hedging its bets over whether to fully commit to the play’s dark and menacing premise or to provide a nice, light evening of outdoor entertainment. In this case I don’t think that you can have it both ways.

If you are planning on attending the show, please be aware (while driving in rush hour traffic!) that much of the car parking at Mona Vale is closed due to earthquake renovations on the grand old homestead. Entry is from the Christchurch Girls’ High entrance. Dress warmly! 


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