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BWW Reviews: Player's Theatre Does MACBETH set in WWI


It is hard to identify with a man as deluded as Shakespeare's famous character Macbeth is. Yet through his display of weakness the question that comes to mind can only be: what is our inner nature truly capable of? When you find your values already lost in the moral cesspool, how far will one go to gain power?

Shakespeare's Macbeth is the epic tragedy that chronicles the vicious duo, Macbeth and his wife, as they attempt to deceive and murder their way to the throne of Scotland. The plot follows Macbeth's slow descent into madness as blind ambition and his own hidden frailties war against each other until he is eventually gruesomely destroyed by his own mind.

Directed by Martin Law, McGill's Player's Theatre brings this horrific yet deeply humanistic show to life with a bit of a twist. The play is re-contextualized to be set at the end of World War I in Europe. The uncertainty that pervaded the beginning of the 20th century fits well with the violence, deception, and political insecurity that are all largely present in Macbeth.

Matthew Rian Steen and Annie Mackay as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth had a palpable chemistry that permeated the audience. Rian Steen wavered in energy throughout the show but overall gave an intense performance, particularly in the final scenes, as his disintegration reaches its peak. MacKay gave a standout performance perfectly portraying the conniving and manipulative snake that Lady Macbeth is. MacKay provides a clear window into her character's infected mind which reflects her loss of control.

Of note, Emily Murphy playing Banquo brought an animation to the role that is typically played by a male. Her sensibility in an otherwise mad world was entirely convincing and entertaining. As the ghost of Banquo, her twitchy movements and vocal choices were akin to something out of a horror movie.

The three witches played by Olivia Blocker, Arielle Phaedra Nowak, and Ayla Lefkowitz were successful in creating a spine-chilling and eerie atmosphere that gave the show the mysticism that it needs.

The costumes are nicely put-together using them to indicate the character's status in relation to each other. The lighting was also well executed by David Costello, particularly in creating a terrifying atmosphere when the ghost of Banquo shows up at the banquet.

Overall, Player's Theatre creates a meditative yet horrifying show that is worthy of this well-worn text.

WEST SIDE STORY plays at Moyse Hall Theatre at McGill University from Jan. 24-26 and Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for students and $20 for adults. For more information, click

MACBETH plays at Player's Theatre (3rd floor, 3480 McTavish) at McGill University from Feb. 20-23 and Feb. 27-Mar. 2 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students and $8 for adults. For more information, click here.

Photo credit: Victor Tangermann

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