Published on January 16th, 2014 | by Darren Byrne0
Theatre Review: Macbeth in @SmockAlley Theatre
Despite being a bit of a Shakespeare fanatic, I’ve probably only seen Macbeth twice on stage and I haven’t read it since my youth (and that’s some time ago now). So, I was very excited about catching Fast Intent’s production in Smock Alley Theatre this week.
The Scottish Play opens as three witches, the “weird sisters”, plan a meeting with the Scottish nobleman Macbeth, who at that moment is fighting in a great battle and kicking some ass. Post-battle, Macbeth and his friend Banquo come across the witches who offer them three predictions: that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland, and that Banquo’s descendants will become kings.
Banquo laughs at the prophecies but Macbeth is excited, particularly so when he is swiftly made Thane of Cawdor by King Duncan, in return for kicking so much ass in the battle. Macky-B writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth, who is even more excited than he. A messenger tells Lady Macbeth that King Duncan is on his way to their castle and she gets her evil on, talking her husband into stabbing King Duncan to death. No-one is quite sure who committed this murder and there’s a big load of foreboding feeling going on, but Macbeth is crowned king.
Now that Macbeth is king he knows the second prediction from the witches has come true, but he starts to fear the third prediction (that Banquo’s descendants will also be kings). Macbeth therefore decides to kill his mate Banquo and his son (as you do), but the plan goes wrong – Banquo is killed but his son escapes. Macbeth then thinks he is going mad (he kind of is) – he starts seeing ghosts and receives more spooky predictions from the witches. Spurred on by his equally crazed wife, he becomes a ruthless tyrant and even kills the family of Macduff, an important lord. From here, things begin to get hairy for Macky-B and his mad wife.
Running at 8pm nightly until 25th January, Fast Intent’s production is very traditional. There’s no modern twist or colourful update. They are unashamedly staging a Shakespearean tragedy and they could have chosen no more atmospheric location than The Boys’ School in Smock Alley.
They took a few minutes at the start to get into their stride. The three witches had timing issues, but when they were on cue, they were very creepy and forwarded the play brilliantly. There were some fine performances throughout and I was delighted to discover that I know two of the cast, Finbar Doyle and Conor Marren, both of whom took on two roles each. Finbar nailed it as Macduff, but I fear rushed it as King Duncan (no harm; he dies fairly swiftly). Similarly, Conor played a fantastic Banquo and seemed to relish that role more than Siward later in the play.
One of the juiciest roles in all of Shakespeare’s universe is that of Lady Macbeth. Ambitious, vicious and ultimately insane, it’s a role coveted by many. Sadly, I was very disappointed by Jennifer Laverty’s take on it. She stripped away much of the diva-esque qualities, but I don’t feel she had the presence to play the role with such subtlety. Diction issues and some hammy stage exits left me wanting.
Two bit parts shone out – both Katie McCann as Ross and Patrick Doyle as Seyton were brilliant. Doyle, in particular, was wonderful and completely charmed the entire audience.
Macbeth himself, played by Fast Intent co-founder Gerard Adlum, completely gripped me. His descent into villainy and madness was unnerving and utterly engrossing. For his performance alone, you should go see this play.
Since being remodelled in 2012, Smock Alley has become one of my favourite Dublin theatres. It’s main stage is ideal for any medium sized production from plays to gigs, but I’m utterly in love with the smaller stage, The Boys’ School. Intimate, unique and extremely versatile. Perhaps it’ my love for the venue that had me somewhat disappointed that Fast Intent didn’t make better use of the space. They built a rickety stairs and balcony that the players seems to be terrified to use (I’m not sure how they’d cope if it was Romeo and Juliet) and were ill-at-ease when stepping on and off the main floor. I’ll forgive the clumsy exits though, as I was there on opening night – I’m sure these things are now ironed out.
Overall, a very good production of the Bard’s famous tragedy. With tickets at just €12, it’s very worthwhile. Also, for any Leaving Cert students this year, this is a solid, traditional version of Macbeth – it would be a shame to miss this.
Update: My apologies, the original post incorrectly identified Lady Macbeth as being played by Claire Jenkins. Claire played Lady MacDuff, while Jennifer Laverty played Lady Macbeth.