Queensland’s Super Star Fund shine’s bright with internationally celebrated guest director Michael Attenborough CBE in QTC’s production of Macbeth.
The fund is a Newman Government initiative, aiming to increase Queensland’s Arts and Cultural profile by importing international stars to nurture local talent. Under the assured direction of Michael Attenborough (formally the Resident Director and Executive Producer of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Artistic Director of London’s Almeida Theatre) this production also marks a collaboration with leading theatrical companies – The Queensland Theatre Company and The Grin and Tonic Theatre Troupe.
If there are awards for title sequences in movies, so should there be for theatre, as this particular opening with it’s sudden black-out and onslaught of battle drums (very Game of Thrones), flash lightning, and frightening atmosphere, gave me chills and set the heart pounding. The dark, imposing woodland forest set (Simone Romaniuk), along with the palpable soundscape (Phil Slade), with beautifully eerie lighting (David Walters) set the scene for the intense horror we were about to witness.
Set in the Scottish highlands, three witches prophesies that the well respected army General Macbeth will rise to the throne, and Macduff’s children will become kings. Incited by his enterprising wife, Macbeth commits regicide and murders King Duncan. To defend the newly stolen throne and hide their treachery, the Mabeth’s must keep killing or be killed, even if it is by their own inner demons.
The hardest thing when playing well known Shakespearean characters with very well known speeches, is living up to the legacy of the great actors who have gone before and giving justice to those text book studied soliloquies. Jason Klarwein in the title role, portrayed the many facets of this complex character with charisma, strength, as well as vulnerability. The chemistry between Klarwein and Veronica Neave as Lady Macbeth was palpable and it was a delight to watch Neave perform that infamous ‘out-damn-spot scene’ better than I have seen to date.
This mighty production has a large ensemble cast, many playing multiple roles. There are many many well-known names in the cast, including Andrew Buchanan (Macduff), Eugene Gilfedder (Duncan), Tim Dashwood (Angus), Lucas Stibbard (Porter), Thomas Larkin (Malcolm), Tama Matheson (Banquo), Steven Rooke (Lennox), Kevin Spink (Donalbain), and Chris Beckey (Ross). The entire ensemble were exceptional and it was a treat to see so much talent in one production. However a tip of the hat has to go to Lucas Stibbard as the Porter. His comic timing and physicality brought much needed lightness to this very dark production.
The witches, played by QTC debutantes Lauren Jackson, Ellen Bailey and Courtney Stewart, were equal parts sexy and scary as their breathy, slithery bodies contorted about the stage. Their dance training was obvious and choreography by Nerida Matthaei gave the trio an interesting aesthetic twist. Child actors Jai Bofinger and Felix Star, sharing the roles of Fleance and the son of MacDuff, also trod the stage with as much professionalism as their more seasoned cast members.
The sword fighting scenes, choreographed by fight director Nigel Poulton, were at times a little safe, however the last fight scene between Macbeth and Macduff was expertly done and the special effect used for Macbeth’s death came as a shock and elicited a collective gasp from the audience.
The costumes for the ensemble cast (Simone Romaniuk) were dirty, blood stained battle-worn garments in drab dark browns and greys.
A stellar production and money well spent from the Super Star Fund. Many thanks to the Queensland government for the recognition and support of the arts sector, providing an opportunity to nurture our arts practitioners.and, through them, our cultural identity.
Macbeth will be playing at the Playhouse Theatre QPAC until 13th April.