PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 December, 2008, 12:00am


Theatre Babel

Cultural Centre Studio Theatre

Reviewed: Dec 12

Graham McLaren's production of Shakespeare's Macbeth for his Glasgow-based Theatre Babel company cuts the play down to the bare bones, a reading which pays off in pace and tension. This is a visceral Macbeth which brings out the brutality of the Macbeths' bloody rise to power and builds to a powerful climax as events spiral out of control. McLaren's designs and lighting create a brooding, oppressive atmosphere, as do the sound effects, although these are sometimes obtrusive.

McLaren's liberties with the text (such as inserting lines from Julius Caesar for Lady Macduff or having the Macbeths commit suicide) are effective, but the play loses its textual richness when cut so heavily. This is a good introduction to Macbeth, but ultimately it is a lesser play than Shakespeare's original.

While Lewis Howden's Macbeth is convincing as the brutal soldier, the high point of his performance is a fine 'Tomorrow and tomorrow...' soliloquy, cradling his dead wife in his arms with memorable tenderness. Rebecca Rodgers does an effective sleep-walking scene, but reduces Lady Macbeth to a nagging housewife in the beginning. John Kazek as Macduff does justice to the heartrending scene where he learns of his family's slaughter.

Unfortunately, much of the acting is marred as they were difficult to understand. One of the biggest challenges in performing Shakespeare is the need to make speech realistic and fresh while respecting the verse. In this performance there were too many garbled lines.

And while having characters speak with Scottish accents may be authentic, it makes the text harder to follow for non-Scots. Shining exceptions were Greg Powrie's noble Banquo and Vari Sylvester's spine-chilling Witch, who made their lines as clear as they were expressive.