Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Review from the Magazine of the Parish Church St. John-at-Hampstead
First the ramparts, now the Heath. After their splendid production of Hamlet the Hampstead Players have taken on that most mysterious, compelling and blood-soaked play, Macbeth. [I feel it safe to call it so now, especially after the experience last night.]
It was an inspiration to set it within a small compass in the church, where the lighting, sound and darkness combined to give us this chronicle of murder, savagery and guilt with exceptional force. The direction was infused with imaginative power - David Gardner, John Risebero and Pat Gardner - had absorbed the essence of this dark and troubled play, so that we were touched to the quick and chilled to the bone. Shakespeare wastes no time in this, the shortest of his tragedies; and in this production we are hurled with increasing menace from the witches, the appearance of Duncan, murder and its tortuous aftermath. In a recent book Michael Mayne writes "when love is cast out as with Macbeth's ambition ...... we watch the soul become a battleground where an inner war is bloodily played out." In a truly impressive performance David Gardner gave us such a man, one whose more human parts - the soldier's courage, the poet ['Light thickens and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood'], his recoil from evil, cannot stand up against his vaulting ambition nor his wife's more total commitment. We travelled with him all the way from double murder through remorse and fear, to dusty death.
Splendidly matching him was his wife - Patrice Dorling gave us this short but legendary part with skill and passion. She was as powerful in the early parts of her deadly intention, as she was in the remorse of the sleepwalking scene - where the early claim that 'a little water clears us from this deed' changes to 'will these hands ne'er be clean?' She was [with Macbeth] most effective in that brisk and chilling exchange of words which immediately follow the murder - 'I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?' / ' I heard an owl scream and a cricket cry.'
These two dominate the play, but the whole structure depends on all those others involved. From the start the witches, marvellously masked and moving with sinister grace took us straight into the realm of dark prophecy. [It was a fine touch to place the 'dagger that he sees before him' in their hands.] John Hester's Duncan spoke with benign [and doomed] authority, and I found Bill Risebero's Banquo a moving and impressive figure, especially when we see his palpable fear that Macbeth has paid 'most foully' for his kingship. And surely the banquet scene has seldom been more successfully portrayed. I have seen Macbeth recoil in horror from an empty stool, but here in a sudden crimson light, he sees a most persuasive and poignant ghost.
All those who played their part in this drama of 'tumult and storm' as Bradley calls it, were caught up in the mood of darkness and savagery, each lending his or her particular voice with power and accuracy [including the poignant young Macduff]. We came away, our heads full of darkness and blood and treachery, from a story which only reaches calm with the death of those [to quote Bradley again] 'great and terrible characters, lit with spirits of remorse and maddening visions of peace lost, and judgement to come.'
All those concerned with this production both on stage and behind it - with lighting, costume, sound and sense of impending doom, must look back on their work with pride.
Diana Raymond May 2001
Macbeth on tour in France August 2002
Following a highly successful run in London, the Hampstead Players took the production to the Lot Valley, South West France, for four performances.
19 / 8 / 01 Goujounac
20 / 8 / 01 La Source Bleue, Touzac
22 / 8 / 01 La Place, Lauzerte
23 / 8 / 01 La Source Bleue, Touzac