[20060051] Macbeth


Stephen Dillane @ Scott Theatre

8:00pm, Wed 8 Mar 2006

As I handed my ticket to the usher at the Scott Theatre, he leant close to me and spoke: “I’ll have to have a word with you in a minute.” Gadzooks, I thought, the jig is up; no longer will the orange Okanuis be deemed appropriate attire for an evening sitting in darkness. Thankfully, the dress code was not being enforced; my seat (E-25, if you must know) was deemed to have bad sight-lines due to the positioning of the musicians onstage. And, since there was all one of me in my party, I was presented with a choice: something central in about Row L, or front row, right.

Not much of a choice at all, in my little opinion. Watching beads of sweat drop from an actor’s forehead will always win over centrality.

So from my seat in Row A, I was able to sit directly in front of the band (guitar, woodwind, percussion) in question. Stephen Dillane sat with them as the audience streamed in, looking bored and somewhat depressed. The set for this one-man Macbeth was a simple white wall; the stage was covered in blackened sand.

The stage lights come up; Dillane strolls to the centre of the stage, cricks his neck; there’s a long pause as he prepares himself for the struggle ahead. And then he launches into it – all thirty odd characters, every line of the play – not stopping until he’s done.

Whilst some of his characterisations are relatively anonymous, others are utterly superb – witness Malcolm in all his stuttering glory, or Lady Macbeth, spouting all her evil soliloquies in French. Dillane switches through character though accent, a twist of the head, or posture – sometimes not even bothering with that, as he blasted through scenes featuring the three witches in a torrential monologue.

There’s some wonderful moments of humour – Dillane’s pelvic thrusting to Macduff’s “knock, knock, knock”-ing of the Porter’s gate, the light-hearted scene accompanied by some free jazz accompaniment. The glint in his eye upon the line “the Devil’s other name”. The way he milked laughs after he dropped his only line (that I noticed) of the night. There’s breath-taking moments of drama – creeping along the wall at the back of the stage. The shadows projected on the back and side walls. The tension created by the musicians when Birnam wood marched on Dunsinane… in fact, the music throughout – though sparse and rarely used – was exceptional, creating ominous or frivolous moods as required.

This was certainly a marvelous effort, aided by the frugal – yet stark – staging of the piece. And yet, I came away somewhat hollow, not as satisfied as I thought I would be. I’ve got the overall feeling that this interpretation of Macbeth is a greater technical achievement than it is entertainment… but, if so, then not by much. In any case, it’s certainly encouraged me to revisit The Bard’s work.

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