Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Tuesday 1st - Saturday 5th October 2019

Alas, Autumn has fallen and the younger generation are back at school, where Shakespeare is in the syllabus and trips are being made to see his work on the stage. For the locals of Gloucestershire, it’s the Watermill’s adaptation of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in place, and as the interval comes around, most of the children are devising a way to make haste. With lack of emotion and emphasis portrayed on stage, phones illuminate the auditorium from all ages, heckles revolt in the raunchy scenes, and when the over-exaggerated bows are given, sighs of relief and exasperated teachers are most ready to vacate.

If it has not been made clear, The Watermill’s production of Macbeth does little to stabilize it’s adaptation and home in on a certain style; with actors coming on with guitars often distracting, and too much unfocused lighting to fill areas across the stage, with some of Macbeth’s soliloquies in darkness downstage, it’s hard to feel anything more than frustration for the production, because no matter how well-received the show has been before setting out on tour, the atmosphere and shear capacity of The Everyman compared to The Watermill really makes the difference. With members of the cast lacking projection, notably Peter Mooney and Offue Okegbe in the latter stages of the play, and more with a robotic stance within the action, the direction to turn towards the audience within dialogue to other characters around them is an often peculiar one; it devoids chemistry on stage, which whilst on the subject is very little. 

With an unsteady and too often unfocused lighting design from Tom White, to which numerously had the downstage centre light brighter than all around for no obvious reason, it seemed really hard to get an understanding of setting, the same of which could be said for Louise Rhoades-Brown’s Video Lighting Design which does very little to spark the imagination until the penultimate scenes of the play; It almost feels forced having such a presence throughout which brings hardly any feeling, especially in the cracks of flowing blood, to then only really make an impact in the forest setting at the climax. Though at times Paul Hart’s direction works to its merit, especially with the use of mobile scenery and Tom Jackon Greaves’ movement sequences during the brawls, it’s not striking or memorable enough when you balance this out with the rest of the creative team. Due to this, dialogue is lost in bringing Macbeth, an often rare presence in the modern touring world, to an audience predominantly made up of educational schools.

Overall, The Watermill’s production of Macbeth lacks the imagination and stability in keeping the audience interested due to it’s overwhelming amount of pressure to the technical aspects and lack of on stage head mics; with the atmosphere uncertain and audience leaving to not return after the interval, there’s only so much hope that can be given for the company’s second production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which interchanges throughout the whole of this week at The Everyman.


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