Thursday, March 13, 2008

Macbeth at the Empty Space : Review

On Monday night we went to see Selina Cartmell's inventive and fast-paced production of Macbeth at the Empty Space (she previously directed an acclaimed production for Siren of Titus Andronicus in 2005). Now Rebecca Feeney-Barry of our V form reviews it :

On the 10th of March, 5th form went to the Empty Space Theatre to see Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I thoroughly enjoyed this production. Cartmell’s interpretation of this great tragedy allowed us to see the journey undertaken by the main character as his actions lead him into hell and madness.

The venue chosen is perfectly suited to the context of the play. The director says that she thought of doing Macbeth when she saw the venue and one can understand why. The earth floors and stone walls in a subterranean space all indicate the trapped atmosphere of the play. This feeling is enhanced by the fact that there is no interval. Also, we are directly involved in the action; the seating is not much higher than the stage and, in order to get to the seats, you must walk across the acting space. This lends an immediacy and an intimacy to the action and to the tragedy of the play.

The title role is played by Rory Keenan, who enacts this difficult role flawlessly. His descent into madness is utterly believable as are all his decisions. He even succeeds in injecting humour where it would seem impossible. His switches between dancing and fraught distress in the banquet scene had the whole audience torn between fear and laughter. The other characters were also acted convincingly. The multiple roles of Olwen Fouere merit a particular mention. She is terrifying as a constant presence in the form of the witches, a murderer and a servant in Macbeth’s castle. She indicates the role of the supernatural in the play as she is always around Macbeth. The forces of good, Malcolm and Macduff, are ably played and fit their characters completely. Lady Macbeth also holds her role of seemingly evil, cruel wife perfectly. In her descent into guilt-fuelled madness, Barbara Brennan’s non-exaggerated acting works perfectly. We feel true pity for her.

The set and costumes were very well done, as the play was set in a modern war. The special effects used made more than one member of the audience jump or cover their eyes. One particularly memorable moment was the interpretation of ‘savagely murdered’ to mean killed with a chainsaw. This is an example of the inventiveness of the production. These effects as well as the venue and the fine acting made this an extremely memorable production of a great tragedy.

John Kelly and his panel (Medb Ruane, Declan Hughes and Peter Murphy) on RTE's 'The View' also reviewed the production on Tuesday night, and you can see the clip on this here for the next few days. They referred to it as a 'brilliant piece of work' with 'wonderful staging', which was 'absolutely gripping'.

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