Saturday, June 16, 2012


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.


Mick Foster said...

Thanks for the positive things in the review, but three stars seems a little harsh for a production described as 'clear fast paced and intelligent with strong performances in the key roles', with a taut dramatic ending etc. The only negative seems to be some unexplained objection to leather coats, and to our oblique allusions to the matrix. How often is amateur Shakespeare done this well, and doesn't it deserve at least 4 stars for being more ambitious in intention and concept, and largely succeeding in executing an original take on the play that (most audiences felt) works? Directors shouldn't argue with reviewers,and you do say go and see it, so thanks for that, but I suppose we think that, whether you love or loathe the concept, we have produced something special whereas three stars says to me a show that is run of the mill -which this one definitely isn't. Come and see it and judge for yourselves, we are on until Saturday 23rd. Mick Foster, Asst Director

Michael Gray said...

Always delighted to get comments, Mick.
And I have noticed that directors have joined fond parents and loyal partners in putting in their two-pennorth. And very welcome, too.
My full review will appear on Thursday. My star system is just an informal way of indicating how much I liked a production. Not to reflect the views of audiences or anyone else - though anyone can click on stars to add their own rating.

Jim C said...

Maybe I'm missing something here, but I don't actually see where these stars are. All I see is 0 ratings at the end of the post. Is my browser editing something out that should be there?

Michael Gray said...

You should have boxes to tick to say to what extent you agree with the review, and two sets of stars - the cumulative, and one you can click on to "vote".
But let's not get too hung up about star ratings - the play's the thing ...

Jim C said...

Absolutely - and thanks for a considered and informative review.

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