Caroline Devlin directs this Guildford Shakespeare Company production of one of the English language's most popular tragedies: Macbeth, the brave Scottish general who receives a prophecy from three witches that he will one day become the King of Scotland. His own ambition, combined with the scheming of his wife, lead him into a series of plotted murders. Taking over as the King he sets upon a slippery slope of paranoia, guilt and tyranny.
And what better venue to stage this dark and powerful tragedy than a Georgian church in the very heart of Guildford? With the church set out as a 'theatre in the round', the audience was surrounded by large fragments of fences. The actors used the space greatly to capture and involve the audience, even with Lady Macbeth sleepwalking through them. The balcony improved the set even more as it was like an old periodic castle at times. The small seating capacity drew the audience in to the plot thanks to the proximinty to the cast, with the occasional fear that a sword may accidentally hit someone in the front row. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the lighting and sound in the space. Strong deep red waves of light flooded through in brutal times, the church itself added character to the lights through natural shadows that would have been impossible in an ordinary theatre.
Macbeth was played by the Scottish actor Tom McGovern; new to the company, he played this confused character flawlessly. From Macbeth's courageous warrior-like self to his wicked and villainous powerful image, McGovern captured the true essence of a disorientated power thief.
The ensemble as a whole were tight and engaging with even the simplest of moves adding to the piece. Even the opening scene with one girl physically under the witches' spell set up the play's dark nature.
Macbeth's return to the 'weird sisters' was gripping and imaginative as the women proved physically compelling to watch. Their use of the entire stage helped encapsulate the audience even more, crawling along the aisles and up to audience members they brought their sorcerous nature even closer to reality.
It seems important to mention that not only is GSC performing 'Macbeth' until February 23 but they have also organised extra events, perfect for students of all ages. Whether you want to know more about the history of 'the real Macbeth', take part in a 'young-people's drama workshop' or see what happens after Shakespeare's play with the UK premiere of the staged reading of 'Macbeth 2- The Seed Of Banquo', there is certainly plenty of fun and educational events for those wanting to know more.
With a combination of an authentic venue and a small but united company, this unique version of Macbeth was very true to what I can only imagine Shakespeare would have wanted today.