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Any society taking on Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish’ play knows in doing so they risk the wrath of superstition and danger of even mentioning the real title, but following Wheathampstead Dramatic Society’s production I am sure they will be confidently talking about this show in future.
A simple set of a painted backdrop of a dark and moody Scottish moor with a single castle tower upon a hill worked well and the few additions to the set made scene changes very quick and helped to keep the play moving.
I liked the openings of both halves with the three Witches (Irene Morris, Jan Westgarth and Margaret Skilton). They worked very well together, particularly when speaking as a threesome – not an easy thing to achieve. They also looked the parts with wonderfully crazy hair, grey faces and even what appeared to be luminous nail varnish. Their costumes were simple but suited the style.
The two main protagonists of Macbeth (Steve Leadbetter) and Lady Macbeth (Sarah Brindley) were both played with good characterisation and their scenes together were particularly smooth and well rehearsed.
Steve Leadbetter managed to make us feel empathy with him, a good portrayal and I particularly liked his scenes when the ghost of Banquo appeared.
Sarah Brindley also gave us a range of character, from an initial charm to a scary, bewitching harridan and her final sleepwalking scene was excellently played. I was not sure about her opening dominatrix like costume, but her later white and red flowing gowns did suit the piece.
Robin Langer was a rather straight short-
Macduff played by Jonathan Field gave a solid supporting performance and Bruce King gave us a confidently worded but rather timid Banquo; I would have liked him to have been a little stronger as an ally to Macbeth. Sara Payne had a clarity of voice and was a confident boyish Malcolm.
A respite to the tragedy came in the form of Malcolm Hobbs as the Porter who gave us a few minutes of fun. The cast was completed by Len Skilton as the Doctor and Eleanor Field in a couple of smaller roles, both acquitted themselves well.
As well as playing the Porter Malcolm Hobbs also directed the play. He kept the piece
moving well with good pace throughout and managed to get the best out of his cast.
It is easy when societies take on Shakespeare to fall into the trap of the cast simply
saying the words without any real understanding of what they are saying -
The lighting by Neil Hewitt and Jill Collis suited throughout, with some good atmospheric scenes created.
Steve Haynes produced a lot of good background sound to fit the piece.
I particularly liked the use of the projections by David Johnston which helped to set the scenes both at the start and the end of the play.
I am a traditionalist when it comes to Shakespeare and prefer the Bard’s plays to
be set in the time he intended, otherwise there are so many trip hazards and examples
of things that just don’t fit. This production was set in the year 2026 so I wondered
why Lady Macbeth received a message from her husband on a piece of parchment when
reading an email on her iPad may have been more suitable, especially as later Macbeth
answered his mobile phone. I did however like the pre-
Due to the 2026 setting the costumes were present day and suitable.
In conclusion, another good production by WDS which was certainly appreciated by the audience the night I attended.
Wheathampstead Dramatic Society
Review date: 16th Feb 2017
Memorial Hall, Wheathampstead
Director: Malcom Hobbs