Left – Alison Whyte. Photo – Nicole Cleary
Macbeth, or the Scottish play if you’re superstitious. Essentially the “He who must not be named” of the theatre. Putting on Macbeth is no easy feat, the technical requirements, calibre of the actors and epic fight scenes pale in the ongoing superstition that Macbeth is a “cursed” play.
Due to this, many theatre companies shy away from the production and focus their attention on the light hearted romantic comedies. This is the real tragedy, for Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces. The shortest of his drama’s it is also the most enduring as themes of power, politics and corruption remain as prevalent today as 400 years ago.
Fortunately the Australian Shakespeare Company has no qualms with the challenging aspects of Macbeth having already presented the piece in 2013 and has resurrected the timeless tale of greed, ambition and absolute power.
Performed in the lush Royal Botanic Gardens as part of the “Shakespeare Under the Stars” program, the ASC is now in their 30th year of bringing Shakespeare’s plays to audiences across Australia and the Europe.
With Macbeth, director and company founder Glenn Elston has assembled a stellar cast of seasoned performers and fresh faces. The troubled Macbeth is played by Nathaniel Dean (Somersault, The Secret River, Sydney Theatre Company) who brings a likeable quality to the character struggling to reconcile his own desires with his moral compass.
Macbeth’s steel hearted wife is usually played by Alison White, but on the evening I attended, the audience was treated to Elizabeth Brennan (Pygmalion ASC, MICF) in the role of Lady Macbeth.
It’s a wonderful role for anyone to play and Brennan never missed a beat, commanding the stage and holding her own against Dean. It was remarkable to watch her character rapidly age as the burdens of her husband’s and her own madness overshadowed the initial joy of being made Queen.
There are the magical elements of Macbeth, the three witches whose interference in Macbeth’s life are the catalyst for the tragic events that unfold. Played by Syd Brisbane, Madeline Mason and Annabelle Tudor the trio embrace the wildness of the characters. Tudor also has a scene stealing moment as Lady Macduff towards the end of the play. And of course, the timeless hero, whose paradox of birth brings Macbeth to his end; Macduff is played by Kevin Hopkins (MTC), a veteran of the ASC having been a company member for 18 years. The fight scene between Macduff and Macbeth remains a favourite and Hopkins and Dean do not disappoint. It is a fight to the death and each actor fights for their life in a thrilling action packed scene.
The Australian Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth is a wonderful example of what happens when the wrong man is given all the power, someone willing to believe in prophecies of strange people he meets in the woods and through his actions manage to bring down a monarchy.
The ASC has delighted audiences with their productions for 30 years and Macbeth is no different. The universe Elston has created and the talent of the actors on stage are a testament to the enduring nature of the Bard’s gory tragedy.
Australian Shakespeare Company presents
by William Shakespeare
Director Glenn Elston
Venue: Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne - Southern Cross Lawn (enter via Observatory Gate opposite the Shrine of Remembrance: Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra)
Dates: 21 December – 23 February 2019
Tickets: $25 – $110