By SARAH CORNETT – EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
DramaCentre’s production of Macbeth opened on April 23 to a sold-out audience. The show, which has been in rehearsals since February, was directed by Professor of Dramatic Arts Tony Haigh and starred senior Dramatic Arts major Andrew Stairs as the title character.
Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, tells the story of a Scottish thane who is told by a trio of witches that he will someday become king. Macbeth takes matters into his own hands and goes on a killing spree of sorts to eliminate any who may stand in his way.
The show was a stunning visual piece. Immediately upon entering the theatre, audience members were greeted by the thrilling set designed by Centre alumna Krit Robinson ’09. The stage held two large half-pipes, covered with planks and ladders; between them, a wooden moon hung, brilliantly lit by senior lighting designer Tyler Rowe.
This visual spectacle was fed wonderfully into the contained energy of the 10th-century Scottish setting, which the cast brought to life magnificently. Junior Olivia Kernekin portrayed the frightening Lady Macbeth with true star quality. She had a wonderful ability to move easily from one emotion to another, moving seamlessly from seductive to vengeful.
Stairs slid easily into the complex role of Macbeth and captivated the audience with his masterful monologue in act five. Though he might be considered a rather small actor for the role, physically, he made up for it with a large stage presence and a powerful vocal register that made it easy to believe that he was a Scottish warrior destined to be king.
Audiences also easily fell in love with senior Kat Yrene and eight-year-old Jacob Earle’s precious performances as Lady Macduff and Young Macduff, respectively – until they were shocked by the family’s murder by Macbeth’s unnerving for-hire assassins (played by first-years Sean Fannin and Dan Caudill and junior Parker Leonard).
The witches were a delightful surprise, moving about the stage with a leonine grace that went wonderfully with their gleeful sadism. They played haggish carrion in fascinating body suits swirled with Celtic tattoos.
The witches’ scenes were beautifully offset by first-year Emilie O’Connor’s vocals as she stood hauntingly at the top of a half-pipe overlooking the ravaged landscape beneath.
The ensemble cast put on a strong performance, and despite a very large cast for a Centre production, none of the actors ever seemed lost or unfocused.
Despite the great acting displayed and the beautiful technical aspects, many parts of the production were unsettling or fell flat for the audience.
For a beautiful set with so many possibilities, too much of the action took place on one level, leaving the underwhelming feeling that the set was underutilized. Actors often stayed center stage on a smaller ramp and only ran up the half-pipes when looking to fuel some of the lagging scenes.
The actors also seemed to struggle with the fight choreography by Lee Look ’92. The opening unscripted battle went from entriguing to humorous at the first slow-motion death and only continued to get funnier and funnier as it progressed. Actors swung their swords cautiously through the air as a cheery backtrack of historically inaccurate bagpipes played behind them.
Additionally, the costumes looked as though they had been thrown together from a pile of cloth prior to the performance. Pieces of what could have been plaid-patterned blankets were draped over the Scottish warriors; strips of out-of-place leopard print adorned pairs of boots.
All of the unfortunate elements of the play came together to create a rather disturbing scene in the fourth act. The witches danced around as their overlord Hecate loomed over them. But Hecate’s alarmingly bright dress made of sheer flames and voice modulation fit for Darth Vader weren’t the most shocking parts of the scene. Shortly after he appeared onstage, Macbeth was hung on the “moon” by the witches in what resulted in making Macbeth seem like a twisted Christ-figure. The overwhelming lights and music made the scene even more confusing to watch and caused most of the audience to miss out on one of the most important scenes in the play.
Additionally, there was one incredibly confusing moment in the murder of the Macduffs that was turned into a rape scene. It was unsettling, and, above all, entirely unnecessary.
Despite these missteps, the production was thoroughly enjoyable and was a credit to the actors and technicians that worked on it. The actors overcame any difficulties caused by a beautiful but difficult set valiantly, and truly put on a production of which the Bard would approve.