Macbeth returns for St Albans theatre company OVO
SIX years ago, as I was reminded at OVO’s Pudding Lane, St Albans, theatre on Saturday, I was critical of a production of Macbeth set in a post-apocalyptic future.
I felt that OVO was stretching credibility too far to move Shakespeare’s Scottish play with its emphasis on the superstition and portents rife at the time of its writing to a Mad Max world.
So I am delighted to say that OVO has not fallen into the same trap with its current production of Macbeth which, while set in modern times, is far more consistent than its predecessor and incorporates Shakespeare’s finest scenes and speeches without jarring.
It means a lot of use of mobile phones – but actually rather effectively – and adopts the extremely effective device of transforming the witches into four lovely young women whose influence is felt throughout the play.
Their importance to the OVO version of the play is, to all intents and purposes, far greater than Shakespeare intended but their presence in the midst of the action is seamless and effective.
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And while it is nothing new to paint the witches as an all-pervading influence over everything which occurs in Macbeth, to dress them in black leotards and leggings and use dance movement and evocative music to define their role is innovative.
Six years on, David Widdowson again plays Macbeth and is as confident in the role as he was then. I was at first a bit doubtful about Alison Wright’s Lady Macbeth because she seemed altogether too sweet for a woman who could turn so quickly into a hard-hearted murderess. But as the play goes on, she captures the madness into which Lady Macbeth falls very believably.
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The idea of having a blind King Duncan - played by the ever-reliable Dewi Williams – is a good one because it makes his callous murder by Macbeth even more poignant. And I particularly liked Trever D. Oakes – another accomplished local actor – as Banquo.
The spectral scene where he haunts Macbeth at the banquet was every bit as eerie as it should be and a high point in the production.
The only character who did not really work for me was Linda Bagaini’s porter because, in an effort to make Shakespeare’s notoriously difficult comedy scenes funny, OVO tried too hard and the scene was completely out of context and more suited to pantomime.
Having said that, the audience seemed to enjoy Linda’s take on a porter cum cleaning woman, maybe for the very reason I am criticising it – because it introduced froth and superficiality into the middle of such a dark play.
Imogen de la Bere directs the production at Pudding Lane and uses the limited space and restricted acting area extremely well. It runs in St Albans until this Saturday and then there is an open-air promenade production at St Paul’s Waldenbury from August 26 to 28 which will be directed by Adam Nichols.
Tickets are available from the box office on 07807 521436 or online at www.ovo.org.uk