Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at The Old Court
My most recent Scottish play was the Polish production at Shakespeare’s Globe, with its grubby gangland setting and its ageing drag queen Weird Sisters.
So Lynn Foster’s Matrix-tainted version for Chelmsford Theatre Workshop seemed very traditional by contrast.
Certainly, it was clear, fast-paced and intelligent, with strong performances in the key roles. And a taut, dramatic ending, with perilously close-up swordplay. Well worth a look, even if you’re not into actors striding around in long leather coats.
Elsewhere, despite the costumes and some atmospheric light and sound, this was a straightforward telling of the tale – easy to follow, hard to stay uninvolved. The couple at the heart of the intrigue were Jim Crozier and his real-life wife, Beth. Jim’s approach was thoughtful, intelligent and spoken with forceful intensity. Given the intimate nature of the staging, a little more light and shade, a little less declamatory power would have helped us empathise – and this is also true of others in the cast.
Beth was a determined dissembler – the "if we should fail" sequence particularly gripping.
I liked Jesse Powis’s infirm dignity as Duncan, and Bart Lambert’s beautifully judged Malcolm. He seemed to me uniquely able to get inside the character, with a combination of technique and natural presence, and displayed an enviable ability to make the verse work for him. The "my poor country" dialogue near the end, with Dean Hempstead's Macduff, was very moving.
Two of the thanes were women – not an easy leap to make, despite the clever justification in the programme note. But both Vikki Pead as Ross and Karen Pemberton as Banquo gave excellent performances, heartfelt and heroic. Pead's scene with Lennox [Danny Segeth] was especially electric.
The boldest concept was to make the "secret, black and midnight hags" glamorous gamers, plotting the fate of kings on their touch-tablets. Weird sisters indeed.