Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Tuesday, 13 June 2017
Macbeth, June 9, 2017 ***1/2
By William Shakespeare, Melbourne
Theatre Company At Southbank
Theatre, The Sumner, until July 15, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Fri June 9, 2017 Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online &in print on Tues June 13, 2017. KH
Jai Courtney, Kevin Hofbauer- pic Jeff Busby
The narrative of Shakespeare’s
Macbeth is propelled by portentous predictions and ill omens, so it is not
surprising that theatre people are superstitious about any production of the
The fateful divinations
begin in the first scene when three witches (Jane Montgomery
Griffiths, Shareena Clanton, Kamil Ellis) prophesy that Macbeth (Jai Courtney), a revered general
in the army of Scottish King Duncan (Robert Menzies), will be King.
Thus begins Macbeth’s
bloodthirsty and tyrannical path to the throne as he systematically murders
every possible threat to his royal accession.
The story is epic and the
language of Shakespeare’s play is as visceral, muscular, tough and dangerous as
is the title character, and Courtney has certainly played modern,
tough guy roles in his Hollywood career.
However, he is
unconvincing in the demanding role of Macbeth, his interpretation lacks texture
and nuance, he looks uncomfortable on stage, and does not illuminate the poetic
language and complexity of Macbeth’s speeches that are some of Shakespeare’s greatest
From the opening scenes,
his Macbeth lacks the charismatic and commanding power of a military leader, so
Macbeth’s indecisiveness looks like weakness as he wrestles with his plan to
Courtney is strongest in
the scene immediately after Duncan’s body is found when his volatile reaction
drives the scene, but this dynamic energy is missing later.
Geraldine Hakewill is a girlish Lady Macbeth, a choice that
leaves her lacking the dangerous womanhood and manipulative, grasping cruelty
of the character, and makes Lady Macbeth’s shift from ambition to power and
finally to madness, less than credible.
Geraldine Hakewill, Jai Courtney pic Jeff Busby
Simon Phillips’ casting
of the two leads may be problematic, but his direction is inventive, action-packed
and staged on an effectively stark, grim and almost glamorous, corporate design
Phillips’ contemporary interpretation
is Macbeth for the smart-phone generation, with Macbeth’s military campaign being
run from computers, while messengers make phone calls and letters arrive as
The production has some
visually compelling moments, such as the startling, opening image of a flaming,
wrecked car and the atmospheric, candle-lit banquet at which Banquo’s ghost (Kevin Hofbauer) appears.
Soaringmusic (Ian McDonald) and evocative lighting (Nick Schlieper) complete
the haunting mood.
The supporting ensemble
is capable, but there are two exceptional, magnetic performances from Robert Menzies and Dan Spielman who illuminate
Shakespeare’s text, connect to the language and inhabit their roles totally.
Menzies has dignity as Duncan and is hilarious as the
Porter, while Spielman’s grief-stricken
Macduff is impassioned, sympathetic and absolutely credible.
Montgomery Griffiths is also compelling as one of
the witches and as Lady Macbeth’s Nurse.
a time when world leaders clamour for power, grasp at peace or hurtle toward
war, Macbeth is a timely, cautionary tale of blind ambition and its bloody path
that leads to chaos.