Saturday, 7 March 2015

A fan letter to the actors in Macbeth

Hey guys,

Thanks for this. Like you were good. Really good. I could quite happily go through the entire cast and tell each of you exactly why I loved you. As it was, I've limited myself to a little bit about a few characters. The sycophancy that follows fairly accurately represents my excitement at leaving - the sort of buzz I felt after seeing Jekyll and Hyde. 

Kicking off with the real Jim Jelly, showing us his leading man, and he showed it. That's right. Underlined, bold AND italics. Profesh like. This Macbeth fed on power and love: this was not a Macbeth motivated by fate but motivated by an idea planted in his head and from the moment he was crowned Thane of Cawdor, a fire lit in his eye that you felt would have to be torn from him. Tim managed to hold the entire narrative together, this was less about the actions of the play than the journey of a man once he takes the first step. It wasn't a flawless performance, there were small moments that needed a more complex approach, for example, the guilt or worry was briefly lost in monologues from time to time but when it counted, when Macbeth was facing Macduff, tearing down Lady Macbeth, he came through. Spectacularly so.

Saffia Sage. Lady Macbeth. Claire Underwood. Robin Wright. Not a comparison made lightly but the elegance that Saffia brought to this performance made the decline all the more believable. The measured approach to her switch from controlling to losing control was only noticeable when it had happened; a joyous realisation as you look back through the play and notice all the things she did in the play leading to that moment. This M/LM didn't necessarily have the sexual relationship that many contemporary ones do (aside from THAT black dress - or was it gold?). But a mutual lust for power created a dynamic that left both parties equal and all the more captivating. 

(Note: the scenes between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as LM convinces M to kill the king and as M rips into LM for showing weakness were glorious)

I'm not usually prone to fan-girling. But I think I might have to make an exception for Jamie Bowman. Having only seen him in Road before this, it seems odd to be jumping to this conclusion so early in our short (yet oh-so-creepy) interactions. This guy though. This Macduff. Having seen Ray Fearon's Macduff ( I was quietly confident that this would be okay at best. Instead I was blown away. The way he portrayed Macduff's torn frame of mind as he mourns his wife and prepares to lead an attack on Macbeth; the cracking of the voice that broke the floodgates. It seems impertinent not to mention James Esler's Malcolm at this point: the scene between those two arguably stole the production. Watching Malcolm frantically try to stem the verbal bloodflow that was gushing from Macduff was heartbreaking. Watching Esler's eyes were the key to his performance, his physicality betraying nothing but the pause between lines as he communicated through eye contact were superb. Between the two of them, they kept their end of the seesaw aloft as Tim did his.

Andy Bewley's Banquo, while alive, was a delicate piece of acting; something about him felt off from the beginning. To me, it seems you often get Banquos that are good friend and lose faith but seeing Banquo as an independent, right from the off, felt right in the context. He felt less like a pawn caught up in Macbeth's plan and more as a castle, waiting for his moment to be brought in the game, yet never getting his chance.

In the rest of the cast, there were excellent performances throughout. Despite a rather short scene, Georgie's Lady Macduff established herself first in a great moment with Macduff and Venetia Cook's Porter then, in her main scene, gave us a quiet performance before being given a criminally short time to react to her child's death before her own quickly followed. The aforementioned Venetia managed to bring light to this dark production, without resorting to cheap physical gags, and her monologue was a welcome relief before the revelations that followed. Josh Welch and Hollie Whelan's Lennox and Ross gave us a grounding in a play that usually has a far larger cast during the 'banquet' scenes. Similarly, the assuredness of Toby King's Duncan gave good reason for Macbeth's guilt.

For me, this was easily the best cast I've seen in a production at York. You all know exactly what you're doing and feed effortlessly off each other, each bringing energy and inventiveness. The play could have been performed on a bare stage, with everyone in all-black; or in full Shakespearean costume; or just in my front room (that offer still stands, just let me know) and I would have left as excited and enthusiastic as I left on Friday night. Unreal.

Lots of love,

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