Review: Macbeth – Elysium Theatre Company
Macbeth – Elysium Theatre Company
The Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham
12th July 2023
This is one of two of the Bard’s most famous plays along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream later in the month and is playing at The Assembly Rooms in Durham all this week. It then moves onto various other locations and is also part of Durham Fringe Festival. This production is in conjunction with Durham University’s English Department and Durham County Council and it certainly does not disappoint.
The story, as if you do not know, concerns Macbeth (Danny Solomon), a loyal servant to King Duncan of Scotland (Steve Byron) who has recently returned from successful battles and is rewarded with the titles of Thane of Glamis and Cawdor for his troubles. The King then honours Macbeth further by inviting himself to stay at his Scottish home. In the meantime, Macbeth encounters three mystical beings who foretell his rise to power where he will become king hereafter.
The famous witches at the start are wonderfully portrayed byElaine MacNicol, Heather Carroll, and Alice Faith) and each of them offer different characteristics – I particularly liked Faith’s maniacal clicking which was subtly sinister. We then meet the kindly King Duncan with his entourage who are keen to tell him about all of Macbeth’s heroic deeds on the field of battle. It is not long before we meet Macbeth’s glamourous and sultry wife, Lady Macbeth (Hannah Ellis Ryan) as we are invited into his home in Scotland.
The scarcity of any kind of set really sets off this imaginative interpretation of the tragic tale and offers a foreboding feel for the story about to be told. The lighting (Jessica Brigham) isalso very effective. The Director, Jake Murray, chooses to setthe action with the heroes returning from war in the style of the Eastern Front and the soundscape before and throughout reflects that with battles raging in the distance and the ominous banging of drums used to heighten the tension as the story unfolds. The costumes (Anna Hayward) which areexcellent are also commensurately dark and drab and there isa very simple but effective use of different coloured armbands to suggest which characters are fighting for whom.
The Director’s choice for the setting also suggests that Macbeth is already suffering mental health issues, perhaps PSTD, right from the start and almost giving him some justification for his less pleasant actions and his unquestioningacceptance of the witches’ premonitions. In previous productions of Macbeth, I have always felt that Lady Macbeth gets off lightly when it comes to her culpability in her husband’s atrocities and madness. Not, I would suggest, in this one where she is as mentally unstable as he and is certainly more than instrumental in persuading him to bump off the affable but over-trusting King Duncan.
The final fight scene between Macbeth and Macduff (Michael Blair) is often a damp squib but here we have an authentic and dramatic fight scene (Neil Tattersall – Northern Forge) which concludes the action most satisfactorily.
The cast as a whole is outstanding and this production has been carefully devised, rehearsed, and directed to give some wonderful moments. It was lovely to see some familiar faces, too. The imagery of the witches’ foretelling at the start of the second half is stunning, if unnerving, to behold. There are some excellent performances in the smaller roles – some of which are dual played. Particular praise goes to Luke Maddison who plays no fewer than four roles and displays confidence and talent in all of them. Congratulations to the whole ensemble, crew, and creatives.
Macbeth runs at The Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham for the rest of this week and I will include information about all the performances this superb production will be playing over the coming weeks. Anyone who likes Shakespeare will enjoythis production and many who see it for the first time will be converted to how Shakespeare can be accessible, relevant, and thoroughly entertaining.
I cannot wait to see what this very talented cast and creatives have done with one of my other favourites – A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Shakespeare’s epic drama of the power of evil. Great warrior Macbeth is given a prophecy that he will be king, and together with his wife will stop at nothing to seize the crown.
Murder, mayhem, and witchcraft combine in a dynamic new production of Shakespeare’s most terrifying play.
8 July 7.30pm – Ushaw House, Durham County Book Here
12 July 7.30pm – Assembly Rooms, Durham City Book Here
13 July 7.30pm – Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham City Book Here
14 July 2.30 & 7.30pm – Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham City Book Here
15 July 2.30 & 7.30pm – Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham City Book Here
– Stephen Stokoe
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