Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Macbeth

Macbeth meets the Great War
The Scottish play caps off a season of classics at Players
by Sarah Deshaies 

You couldn’t do a season of classic plays without touching on the Bard. 

McGill Players’ Theatre has been revisiting and refurbishing the great plays throughout their whole season, beginning with Waiting for Godot. For the final feature production before the McGill Drama Festival begins, director Martin Law and his cast and crew cast Macbeth in World War I-era Scotland.

The transition to this time period is half-baked. The mid-1910s costumes are sweet and reminiscent of Downton Abbey: mismatched officers’ jackets cinched at the waist and slim evening gowns. 

World War I was a complex struggle that is not further explored or enlightened through this interpretation. 

Macbeth’s Scotland is imploding with infighting, much like Europe tearing itself apart during the Great War. And the question of morality, ambition and fairness in times of conflict is fitting. While the propaganda is cute - “The Huns are coming” is scrawled on the wall, recruitment posters line the set - we’re not fighting the Germans, we’re watching a tale of overarching ambition and power. It’s a power struggle for the crown of Scotland, good vs. evil. World War I was a complex struggle that is not further explored or enlightened through this interpretation. 

As an ensemble piece, there are standout performances. Annie MacKay’s Lady Macbeth is taut and passionate, but her movements could have been a little more fluid, a little more elegant. Interesting thing about the witches: they were a delightful trio, and like in any rendition of Macbeth, they’re the best part of the show. But Ayla Lefkowitz was dialing it to 11 with her facial expressions, tics and limp, while her counterparts were only hitting a 9. It’s uneven to watch. Lefkowitz does shine in her myriad of other smaller roles. Emily Murphy does a clean, soldier-like Banquo; her ghostly interpretation is downright creepy. Macduff (Alex Rivers) looks pitch-perfect and is angry and heroic to boot.

When it comes to the star - can I just say that Matthew Rian Steen’s hair killed? Such a great cut. Now that that’s out of the way, I think his performance that night belied some jitters. Macbeth does ripple with neuroses throughout the play, but he does not command the authority of a battle-hardened soldier when he needed to. I felt like towards the end, Steen defaulted into rote recitation. 

The set is inventive, with an eye for detail. A rotating main piece brings variety and keeps the set dynamic. Despite a few quibbles with sound and staging, there’s action and drama galore.

With the season wrapping up, I think Players’ has done a solid job in probing the classics. Sometimes reinvention hits the mark, and sometimes it doesn’t. What matters is trying it on for size.

Macbeth runs to March 2. 
Runs 2 hours 30 minutes with 12-minute intermission. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.