Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Production by Hong Kong Players Ltd
Hong Kong Arts Centre, Mcaulay Studio
2nd - 5th April, 2014
David Mersault - Macbeth, Thane of Glamis
Macbeth is one of the most performed Shakespearean tragedies, so I put it to you that going to see it is not about the plot or who dunnit or what happens at the end. It is about how it is performed. There is no need to alert any one about a plot spoiler because, well, you know who dies.
The Mcaulay Studio is small, seating only 76, if you all squash up cozy. Being so close to the actors, who are at floor level, the same as the first row, is intimate and a little scary, in a good way. Perhaps not that good for latecomers who find themselves having to almost say 'Excuse me' to the actors as they attempt to be invisible and find a seat after it has started. I hope those late comers get their act together in future and manage to be on time like the rest of us!
A completely black minimalist set, with the throne at the centre for the whole performance, two swords hanging at the back and a black box to stand on to show power were the only items on stage. All entrances and exits were simple with an interesting freeze of action to cross cut to another time and place. This was an extremely effective technique which moved the plot along without the necessity for physical scene changes.
All characters were dressed in contemporary clothes of black or white with a subtle flash of red to represent all those things that temptress colour can symbolise. Passion, death, blood, anger, danger, war... Their weapons were guns and knives of various sizes.
The opening scene gave us those three weird sisters who we all love to hate and their presence on stage for much of the performance was wonderful. Two young ones and one lady of a certain age who played the Punk Witch, a terrific touch. They each carried a large pole which they 'banged' on the floor at crutial points. This was just one of many powerful moments of the performance. Yes, it made us all jump. The witches were involved in the death scenes, delivery of letters and phone calls bringing bad news and lead us to believe it was their prophecy and their meddling that made poor old Macbeth do the 'deed' which then brought him enough guilt to fill his mind with those scorpions he speaks of. Their role stressed the importance of magic and witchcraft making us believe it was their prophecy and spells that made everything go so horribly wrong.
David Mersaultis a talented actor who made us believe it was only him who could see Duncan or Banquo as ghosts. His portrayal of Macbeth was truly excellent. The passion between him and Lady Macbeth was evident as well as his weakness and guilt as he deteriorates into a defeated man. We need to see more of him in the future.
That bitch (plot spoiler alert)
I like the idea of blaming the witches because I've always felt Lady Macbeth (that bitch) pushed her husband into brutally killing the King while he was asleep in his bed and then, pretended he had no idea how it had happened and then, because he wasn't sleeping too well at night, took it upon himself to arrange for the death of his best friend Banquo and then the wife and young children of Macduff. While the whole incident filled Mr and Mrs Macbeth with incredible guilt, enough for her to top herself, Macbeth continued, as best he could, in his new King role believing that no man not born of women existed or Burnham Wood could get up and walk.
Oh how wrong he was!
The young MacDuff and his death scene must get that young man an A* is whatever drama course he is on?
Music and Lights and even smoke
There was smoke, there was the music of Nick Cave, there was a multi media video showing red blood and skulls. This all added to the experience and a very unique production of Macbeth. I did find that the music wasn't faded enough at certain points so the delivery of some crucial lines was lost. This is a minor point and I do applaud Adam Harris for his dedication and commitment to theatre in Hong Kong. This was a truly powerful production, full of witchcraft, fight scenes, murder, violence and lots of blood. Isn't it marvellous that Shakespeare wrote this for an audience in 1606 and those themes and exploration are still a full-on family favourite today.