The Hart House production of Macbeth, directed by Jeremy Hutton, remains faithful to the original text and setting of Shakespeare’s play. Sticking to tradition, with a few thoughtful updates, serves the show well.
The play contains elements of the supernatural, which create an atmosphere of horror surrounding the political and emotional upheaval occupying the stage. Hutton’s Macbeth begins with an exhilarating opening scene, in which the witches chant their lines over a cauldron and black and white lights flash rapidly to a harrowing screeching sound. This visual display is intriguing at first, adding a cutting-edge facet to the horror of the plot. However, this same sound and light motif is repeated throughout the play, eventually becoming a disruption rather than an enhancement.
The cast is talented, demonstrating a natural ease with Shakespearean material and producing an infectious energy. The various large-scale fight scenes are ambitiously executed and entertaining. The show is often humourous, and the audience chuckled frequently. Michael McLeister’s delivery is particularily amusing in the roles of the porter and the doctor. William Foley, who plays Macbeth, portrays his character with fitting intensity. Lady Macbeth is played deftly, albeit slightly gratingly, by Jackie Rowland. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s relationship is carried out with feverish passion through their many make-out sessions, complete with excessive groping. Although both actors are admittedly skilled, this fiery interaction is gratuitous.
In pointed contrast to the strong opening scene of the show, the final scene is abrupt and off-putting in this production. The effects, used formerly to convey the sense of chaos surrounding the play, are used once more in this finale. Continued drumming sounds contribute to a sustained alarming, fearsome tone, but the production neglects to aesthetically convey that the completion of the play represents the triumph of good with the end of Macbeth’s tyranny. Though the play wears near its completion, overall, it is an entertaining production, thanks to its purist approach, an enthusiastic cast, and (at least initially) exciting effects.
Macbeth runs at Hart House from November 9–26, 2011.