Macbeth | The Melbourne Company of Players
Born out of a collaboration between The Melbourne Company of Players and the Melbourne Shakespeare Society, Macbeth is a gripping production, with stripped back yet effective visuals placing the focus directly on the passion, physicality and sheer power of the play.
With many of the cast being members of the Melbourne Shakespeare society, their passion for and experience with the play is evident in their clear delivery. Hugh Sexton is an utter powerhouse as Macbeth, embodying his descent from cautious, hopeful curiousity to frustrated exhaustion and apathy. He brings the visceral nature of the verse alive, and his powerful physicality from a background in comedic performances such as Shakespeare’s Best Bits engulfs the audience in the weight and depth of the lines and the horror they contain. While her transition between barely containing her malicious glee and dying in despair seemed fairly abrupt, Asleen Mauthor reaches her peak in Lady Macbeth’s final scene being consumed by maddening guilt. Similarly, while Grant Folkes flies under the radar in Macduff’s earlier scenes, the moment tragedy strikes he grips the audience with a chillingly realistic meld of vengeful rage and numbed grief that refuses to be restrained by those around him.
With the language and physicality taking centre stage, the production’s design shines in its simplicity
The unnerving and energetic portrayal of the Weird Sisters is heightened by an eerily evocative soundscape and lighting design, and the potent role children play in the tragedy is powerfully brought to life by the young actors in the nightly revolving rounds of Fleance and Young Macduff, whose animated performance shows age doesn’t have to be a barrier to Elizabethan language. While many of the cast taking on various, distinct roles through the show, it was also fascinating to see David Todman appearing to meld several characters into a single soldier following Macbeth through loyalty, murder, and even the redemption denied to the protagonists.
The performance’s visceral nature extends to the dramatic fight scenes, featuring some impressive kicks from Roberto Zenca’s Banquo and a gripping final duel. With the language and physicality taking centrestage, the production’s design shines in its simplicity. The bloodied ‘M’ that dominates the stage anchors the actors, becoming a tool for showing both militant conformity and the witches weaving through the world of the supernatural. The contemporary costumes create a world that is both familiar and timeless, though the one-off use of a mobile phone as a letter seemed slightly out of place among the more abstract modern elements. But the simplicity of the costuming is extremely effective, with Macbeth’s kingship forgoing elaborate robes for a simple medallion showing just how fragile his position is.
With another week left in their impressive run, Macbeth is an intimate, gripping collaboration that is not to be missed!