BWW Review: MACBETH & AS YOU LIKE IT at In The Park, The Pumphouse Theatre
Reviewed by Stephen Arnold
The image of Shakespeare peering out, as if hidden from behind a barrier, as the choice of poster, entices and intrigues - and sets the scene for a pair of revealing performances - is he watching us, or are we watching him? Shakespeare's insights into the tortured depths of the ambitious and unscrupulous, paired by his playful reveal of pastoral romance set against the seven ages and stages, in human development.
The audiences of the two shows were thoroughly involved - each in two different plays, two different ways; however each of us, clutching our synopses, responded and engaged with the words of Shakespeare, the action and voices of the cast, the talents of the design team, and the capable story telling of the directors.
Either play is worth seeing, both make the summer memorable!MACBETH - Directed by Catherine Boniface.
What a treat to engage in community theatre, outside, sunny evening, sunset, rich costumes, simple effective lighting - and how moving to feel it all change as the sun sets, framing the dark plots of MACBETH, and LADY MACBETH which reveal themselves in the growing shadows.
The opening choral speaking with entire cast engagement, activated the audience. The stage was set for the madness to begin. The actors used the stage settings, the audience entrances and the aisles to great effect; creating the whirlwind and
disorientating parallels to the madness unfolding in the minds of the MACBETH'S. The physical setting of the production supported the development of tension in the open air, and slowly the shadows moved in - live squabbling geese, heard from the lake in the background, were disruptive and disturbing, as if on cue.
Each scene flowed from one to the next, in a style similar to the original globe, maintaining energy, and pace. There were some outstanding effects - the ghost of Banquo, the witches - both visual and audio, the madness of Lady M. There were also some fun playful moments, quips with the audience and contemporary musical references.
Outstanding performers such as Macbeth (Mark Wilson) and Lady Macbeth (Meg Andrews) were supported by an array of diverse and engaging characters. Each contributing their own rhythm of tension and release, tension and release, which was the emerging heartbeat that climaxed in the dramatic tension. The action was engaging, the plot unfolded, the voices and language were clear and resonant.
The developing madness in the action, fuelled by the ambition, self doubt, fear, and inner turmoil of the protagonists, was balanced by the touching moments of love for family, honour, and dignity - shared sensitively by Macduff (Jordan Henare)
Throughout the play the real world political turmoil of ambitious leaders clamouring for their own gratification, amplified and resonated the themes of this play - Madness all; creating a moment of grave commentary on our contemporary life (even the current tense relationship between Scotland and England) - 417 years after being written; The story of Macbeth lives on.AS YOU LIKE IT - Directed by James Bell
A fun romp through the Forest of Arden, with each character alternately being confusing, being confused, and taking the audience ever deeper into the world of romance and fun. The evening of the production was beautiful and clear, and the outside venue added to the magic and expectation of being transported to romantic longings and pastoral fantasies. The light summer shower, only served to provide richer context for the outside troupe and the fickle weather highlighted the passions and passionate characters; the weather itself simply became part of the production (Extending the pastoral theme) and so was simply noted and referenced in the texts to the joyful playfulness of nature, by spontaneous improvisations from the performers on stage. The shower was as brief, light and refreshing as was the action on stage. The setting augmented the play, for example the crescent moon rising above the lake, behind the theatre, beamed consent on the romances and passions of the characters acting on the stage below.
Particular mention to Rosalind (Shannon Quinn), who ably, sensitively and professionally carried much of the interweaving of the labyrinth of plot and action. She was supported by some very strong characters - individual actors, pairs and ensemble work; particularly Celia (Monique Rabie), and the usurping Duke Ferdinand (Terri Mellender). The use of live music was appreciated by the audience and cast alike, as in these moments - it all came alive.The ensemble work was particularly enaging and showed comfortable and well-rehearsed performers relaxed and enjoying themselves on stage.
The richness and variety of costumes (and the lack of costumes in some cases, which caught the attention of the audience), sparse sound effects, which were used to great effect, and the multiple exits, entrances, and staging areas, recreated the criss-crossing of the many paths in the forest. Love struck heroes, and romantic shepherds - oh yes, the sheep deserve a mention too!
There was a lightness of touch in the direction, we were guided through a plot - with many twists and turns and we arrived safely at the end, with Hymen's guidance all ended as it should. The epilogue by Rosalind, was also aptly portrayed - a great final moment, addressing the nature of Shakespeare's favourite themes and human foibles - love, gender, art and through his theatre, Shakespeare provides a key to asking the audience to reflect on their own questions about life.
Both plays on now until February 15th
Shakespeare in the Park
The PumpHouse Outdoor Amphitheatre