Review: Macbeth at Roman Theatre has ‘originality, passion and polish’

OVO's Macbeth can be seen at the Roman Theatre Festival

OVO's Macbeth can be seen at the Roman Theatre Festival - Credit: Alan Davies

Madeleine Burton reviews Macbeth at the Roman Theatre Festival in St Albans.

Placing the witches at the heart of the story of Macbeth has resulted in a spellbinding outdoor production by St Albans-based theatre company OVO.

First performed at the Maltings Arts Theatre last October, OVO has revived Macbeth at the Roman Theatre at Verulamium this week as the final production in its month-long Roman Theatre Festival.

And the scale of the surroundings, the use of a revolving stage and the magic of the outdoors combine to produce a production that OVO should be immensely proud of.

Directed by OVO's co-founder and artistic director Adam Nichols, it has all the features associated with the theatre company - originality, passion and polish.

As well as superb performances by the leading characters, it has taken the unusual step of keeping the three witches to the fore throughout.

As well as being the portents of Macbeth's fate, they take the minor roles including the drunken porter and the murderers of both Banquo and Macduff's wife and family.

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Very much in spirit mould, their groaning and distortions beg the question of whether they are driving Macbeth to his fate or are merely horrified observers.

Faith Turner, Emma Watson and Georgia Fensome in the roles are spectacular, knowing just when to unfold themselves into the action from the three gantries or keep still and watchful.

They are the perfect foil for Andrew Margerison's Macbeth, who masterfully handles the thane's moral weakness in the face of the glittering prospect of becoming king.

Jane Withers is his match as Lady Macbeth, a woman whose collapse is even more spectacular than her husband's.

Her dramatic soliloquy as her mental state fails, 'Out damn spot', is intensely moving.

OVO use the old Roman theatre to the full with a revolving stage in the centre from which the witches appear and disappear and the rim for the famous scene where Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane.

Performances start at 8.30pm, a lateness of hour which means that night falls as Macbeth's thoughts get darker and darker.

OVO's Macbeth demonstrates that while plays such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It are always going to be the most popular for outdoor productions, even Shakespeare's great tragedies have their place in the open air.

Macbeth runs until Saturday, July 13 but most performances are sold out.

Visit for more about OVO's first Roman Theatre Festival and to book tickets.