Tragic play a bloody good night out

TOIL AND TROUBLE: The three “weird sisters” played by Niki Ovendon (left), Elizabeth Boyce and Julia Duffy in Unity Theatre’s production of Macbeth thicken the plot for the doomed Scottish general. Picture by Elenor Gill

TO call one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays good fun is possibly not done but Unity Theatre’s production of Macbeth is just that.

The supernatural undercurrents, the psychological depth and the horror are all there but so is the joy of watching good art at play.

Joe Martin plumbs the depth of Macbeth’s being to portray a man whose terrible ambition to take the crown by murderous means. That ambition is seeded in his mind by three weird sisters’ prophecies at the beginning of the play.

Until he gets past the horror of stabbing King Duncan to death, Martin’s Macbeth is by turns committed to the evil deed, then opposed.

His conflicted character is complemented by Beth Morton’s extraordinary performance as Lady Macbeth. Early in the play she reads a letter that tells of her husband’s encounter with the weird sisters and determines to make their prophesies happen.

When Morton looked up from the letter in last night’s opening performance of the Norman Maclean-directed production, and seemed to speak her thoughts directly to the audience, a frisson ran through the capacity crowd.

In Morton’s hands, Lady Macbeth is very much in charge. The moment Macbeth becomes king marks a clear shift in the power balance. A patronising chuck under the missus’s chin could have gone very badly but in that instant Morton’s Lady Macbeth’s power over Macbeth diminishes in a glimmer of confusion.

As Banquo, Martin Gibson too finds a broad palette in his character. His Scottish accent helps shape a character who is also intrigued by the weird sisters’ prophecies. Gibson plays Banquo’s equivocation with natural humanity and his murder is truly awful.

Arran Dunn’s King Duncan is another trusting but more soft-natured chap. Dunn deserves to give his performance justice with a little more projection. If an actor is too softly spoken it distances the audience and the audience wants to love the king Dunn is well cast to play.

Adam Whibley brings good energy to his drunken porter but would do well to give his character a lighter touch. The scene is written to provide comic relief (even if the dark undercurrent is never far away) but the gravelled-voice Whibley traps in his chest detracts from the porter’s blokey jokes. That, though, is easily remedied.

Peter Ray as Macduff has one of the strongest roles in the play, a role that grows in significance as the plot tracks its inexorable arc. Ray’s grief at the slaughter of Macduff’s family (under Macbeth’s mad orders of course) is palpable.

The tendency to gravel the voice to emote angst and masculine power again distances the character from the audience.

The cast is large and so many actors deserve accolades but special mention goes to Brent Forge, whose confident stage presence helps make his character Ross, and the language, his own.

The play itself is free of complicated twists and turns and Maclean has ensured it moves along at a cracking pace.

The production deepens and darkens in the second part as Martin’s Macbeth descends so much into despair, paranoia, near-madness he is well past any delight in his kingship.

Ray hits his straps as vengeful Macduff in the dramatic denouement when he and Macbeth clash in an exciting sword fight.

The intimate size of the theatre means seats are limited in number so book early to see this show.

It’s bloody good fun.




TO call one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays good fun is possibly not done but Unity Theatre’s production of Macbeth is just that.

The supernatural undercurrents, the psychological depth and the horror are all there but so is the joy of watching good art at play.

Joe Martin plumbs the depth of Macbeth’s being to portray a man whose terrible ambition to take the crown by murderous means. That ambition is seeded in his mind by three weird sisters’ prophecies at the beginning of the play.

Until he gets past the horror of stabbing King Duncan to death, Martin’s Macbeth is by turns committed to the evil deed, then opposed.

His conflicted character is complemented by Beth Morton’s extraordinary performance as Lady Macbeth. Early in the play she reads a letter that tells of her husband’s encounter with the weird sisters and determines to make their prophesies happen.

When Morton looked up from the letter in last night’s opening performance of the Norman Maclean-directed production, and seemed to speak her thoughts directly to the audience, a frisson ran through the capacity crowd.

In Morton’s hands, Lady Macbeth is very much in charge. The moment Macbeth becomes king marks a clear shift in the power balance. A patronising chuck under the missus’s chin could have gone very badly but in that instant Morton’s Lady Macbeth’s power over Macbeth diminishes in a glimmer of confusion.

As Banquo, Martin Gibson too finds a broad palette in his character. His Scottish accent helps shape a character who is also intrigued by the weird sisters’ prophecies. Gibson plays Banquo’s equivocation with natural humanity and his murder is truly awful.

Arran Dunn’s King Duncan is another trusting but more soft-natured chap. Dunn deserves to give his performance justice with a little more projection. If an actor is too softly spoken it distances the audience and the audience wants to love the king Dunn is well cast to play.

Adam Whibley brings good energy to his drunken porter but would do well to give his character a lighter touch. The scene is written to provide comic relief (even if the dark undercurrent is never far away) but the gravelled-voice Whibley traps in his chest detracts from the porter’s blokey jokes. That, though, is easily remedied.

Peter Ray as Macduff has one of the strongest roles in the play, a role that grows in significance as the plot tracks its inexorable arc. Ray’s grief at the slaughter of Macduff’s family (under Macbeth’s mad orders of course) is palpable.

The tendency to gravel the voice to emote angst and masculine power again distances the character from the audience.

The cast is large and so many actors deserve accolades but special mention goes to Brent Forge, whose confident stage presence helps make his character Ross, and the language, his own.

The play itself is free of complicated twists and turns and Maclean has ensured it moves along at a cracking pace.

The production deepens and darkens in the second part as Martin’s Macbeth descends so much into despair, paranoia, near-madness he is well past any delight in his kingship.

Ray hits his straps as vengeful Macduff in the dramatic denouement when he and Macbeth clash in an exciting sword fight.

The intimate size of the theatre means seats are limited in number so book early to see this show.

It’s bloody good fun.




Macbeth, Unity Theatre, Ormond Road until August 25 (7.30pm). No show Monday. Matinees today and tomorrow, 4pm. Latecomers will not be admitted. Tickets are available from the i-Site, Grey Street.

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