Review: MACBETH at the Stratford Festival is Frighteningly Great and Greatly Frightening

By: May. 31, 2016

The Stratford Festival officially opened its 64th Season Monday night with a frighteningly great (and greatly frightening) production of the Scottish Play. This may be the eleventh time that MACBETH has graced the Stratford Festival stage, but this daring production feels fresh and new.

Director Antoni Cimolino brings us what is likely the darkest and grittiest play to grace the Festival Theatre stage in some time. The entire company is phenomenal, and there are moments that will undoubtedly return to audiences in their dreams (or nightmares) when they return home to bed after an evening at the theatre. This writer can personally attest to this. My sleep was restless and that has never happened to me before as the result of a play. From now on, I expect nothing less!

Although the entire ensemble moved and breathed as a well-oiled machine to make this play so exhilarating, I would be remiss not to identify some of the key players whose performances brought the production to a level of excellence. As the titular character, Ian Lake elicits chills-something he has done before at the Stratford Festival in his role as Mortimer in MARY STUART. He is so fantastic as the viciously ambitious Macbeth that this writer would almost be wary of passing him on the street; for fear that some weird sisters may have said something to him about me! Lake masterfully portrays Macbeth's evolution from brave and ambitious, to psychologically vulnerable, to terrifying and tyrannical, to resigned and purposeless. He is a gem in the Crown of the Stratford Festival.

Equally as masterful in her performance, is Krystin Pellerin as Lady Macbeth. Her shift from seemingly ruthless sociopath when speaking with her husband and in soliloquy, to charming hostess whenever she is interacting with guests is absolutely enthralling. Both Lake and Pellerin are able to portray layered villains that the audience can root for-not because deep down, the characters are misunderstood due to fatal flaws, but in fact, the exact opposite. They are simply really great bad guys and they are fun to watch.

This said, another character the audience will certainly root for is Macduff-a truly heroic character portrayed fabulously by Michael Blake. His utter shock and devastation when he learns the fate of his family (portrayed to great effect by Sarah Afful as Lady Macduff and Oliver Neudorf as the precocious Young Macduff) is almost unbearable. His heartbreak transports to the very back of the theatre, and lingers there.

Another highlight in this production is most certainly the trio of Witches, or 'Weird Sisters' portrayed by Brigit Wilson, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings, and Lanise Antoine Shelley. They are captivating and terrifying, and the work of Movement Director, Heidi Strauss accentuates this even further.

Lastly, an acknowledgment must be made to Cyrus Lane as the Scene-stealing Porter. He was intriguing and funny and I will certainly remember the Porter.

The Set design by Julie Fox, Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne, Fight direction by John Stead, Compositions by Steven Page, and Lighting design by Michael Walton, joined by the direction of Mr. Cimolino, contribute to a frightening and supernatural world. The costumes, makeup, and fight sequences are also stellar. The team backstage is clearly as gifted at their craft as the on-stage team.

It should be noted that this production has been dedicated to the memory of renowned actor and director, Brian Bedford, who graced the Festival Stage on numerous occasions. I suspect Mr. Bedford would have been pleased.

From beginning to end, MACBETH is riveting. All audiences will enjoy it-from rabid Shakespeare fans, to people new to the theatre. This is a must see...and I might just have to see it again tomorrow...and tomorrow...and tomorrow.

Photo Credit: Don Dixon

BroadwayWorld Awards Voting


VIDEO: Watch a Teaser Trailer for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE* (*SORT OF), Beginning This Month at Photo
VIDEO: Watch a Teaser Trailer for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE* (*SORT OF), Beginning This Month at CAA Theatre

Watch a teaser trailer for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (SORT OF) at CAA Theatre in Toronto running from December 14 through January 14 2024 below!

Tom Stoppards ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD to Play Torontos CAA Theatre in Marc Photo
Tom Stoppard's ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD to Play Toronto's CAA Theatre in March

Tom Stoppard's ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD is coming to Toronto's CAA Theatre this winter. Learn how to purchase tickets!

Musical Stage Company Announces Kevin Wong As Newest Crescendo Series Artist Photo
Musical Stage Company Announces Kevin Wong As Newest Crescendo Series Artist

Musical Stage Company announces Kevin Wong as newest Crescendo Series artist, joining past artists Britta Johnson and Anton Lipovetsky in the ground-breaking program.

Review: PROPHECY FOG at Coal Mine Theatre Photo
Review: PROPHECY FOG at Coal Mine Theatre

Jani Lauzon’s autobiographical one-act PROPHECY FOG at Coal Mine Theatre encourages its guests to be receptive vessels, to find comfort in sharing an experience around a circle, engaging in the journey together, and sitting amongst the star stuff of which we’re made.


A Chritsmas Carol  in Toronto A Chritsmas Carol
Campbell House Museum (12/06-12/22)
Chicago (Non-Equity) in Toronto Chicago (Non-Equity)
Ed Mirvish Theatre (12/27-1/09)
Messiah in Toronto Messiah
Toronto Symphony Orchestra (12/17-12/23)
Captain Galactic & Penny in Toronto Captain Galactic & Penny
The Assembly Theatre (12/09-12/30)
Hypothetical Baby in Toronto Hypothetical Baby
Tarragon Theatre (12/08-12/17)
The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes in Toronto The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes
Canadian Stage (1/18-1/28)
All Of Us Are Naughty in Toronto All Of Us Are Naughty
The Assembly Theatre (12/01-12/29)
Home Alone in Concert in Toronto Home Alone in Concert
Toronto Symphony Orchestra (12/07-12/09)
The Inheritance Part 1 & 2 in Toronto The Inheritance Part 1 & 2
Bluma Appel Theatre (3/22-4/07)
Les Miserables in Toronto Les Miserables
Princess of Wales Theatre (3/26-6/01)

Recommended For You