Volume 95, Issue 73

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

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Simply set, Macbeth's age-old story still stuns

Slackers are all about love, baby

Realistic action film hits home

Simply set, Macbeth's age-old story still stuns

Oliver Becker, Stephen Fielden, Colin Legge, Nancy Palk, Kent Staines
Directed By: Susan Ferley
Three 1/2 stars (out of five)

By Brian Wong
Gazette Staff

Did a curse cast a shadow on the opening night of this tragic tale?

The Grand Theatre's new production of Macbeth descends from a long line of London productions superstitiously-dubbed "The Scottish Play" due to the history of mysterious accidents that have befallen previous troupes.

This notion was not lost on those who delivered the pre-curtain welcome to the audience as they did not err in referring to Shakespeare's classic by its code name.

Although it's been nearly four centuries since Macbeth was written, the plot surrounding an over-achieving, guilt-ridden general and his equally ambitious wife continues to be jaw-droppingly stunning.

Throughout the play, the multiple embraces shared by the Macbeths shift from Lady Macbeth holding her husband to vice versa, an apt representation of the changing powers of their relationship.

The set design is sparse, yet imposing. Movable, rusty green walls become a monolithic backdrop to an elevated stage, creating a spacious arena for the players. Of course, such a classically-inspired set puts much of the onus of moving the play forward on the actors' performances and poetic dialogue.

Oliver Becker is a commanding presence as Macbeth and Nancy Palk works exquisitely as Lady Macbeth, slithering across the stage and holding court amongst the men. The role of the night porter following the murder of King Duncan (both finely executed by Stephen Fielden) has also been extended to provide even more comic relief than the original play.

Like Lady Macbeth's state of possession, some of the most tense moments are those steeped in supernatural terror. From the outset, the audience is propelled into the dark, lightning-stricken world of the three prophetic witches, where the characters work under low light and excessive fog.

Even more horrific is the feasting scene in which Macbeth is haunted by the ghost of Banquo, played by Colin Legge. Accompanied by spine-tingling ambient noise, the frozen, blood-covered face of the ghost is enough to drive both Macbeth and the audience into fits of madness.

As for the final fight between Macbeth and Macduff (played by Kent Staines) do not expect an authentic-looking sword fight.

Macbeth has visited the fortune telling sisters so both he and the audience know his fate, which makes the calculated choreography of the fight almost anti-climactic.

Like any other moment in his life, Macbeth's duel simply needs to be played out.

Gazette File Photo
HOW DOTH THE DAGGER FEEL INS'T THOUST BACK? Macbeth and his lady had such a good marriage until they tried to kill each other.

Macbeth plays until Feb. 23 at the Grand Theatre. Call 672-8800 for ticket info.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002