Creation Theatre Company transforms Headington Hill Park into the wilds of Scotland
Headington Hill Park, Oxford, Jun-Sep 2006

August 29, 2006
The Cypress, Oak and Copper Beech trees of Headington Hill Park provide the Birnham woods that are ready to come to Dunsinane and undo Shakespeare's popular tragic hero Macbeth. The native English trees of the park add to this Medieval Celtic inspired production of the greatest of morality plays, admirably directed by Gareth Machin. The exquisitely detailed costumes (Mia Flodquist) serve to tell the story of 'this dead butcher, and his fiend-like Queen' as ambition corrupts the couple's human souls and they journey to damnation murdering those who stand in their way. When the King of Scotland appoints Malcolm as his heir, giving Macbeth yet one more hurdle to overcome, Malcolm's white tunic illuminates the significance of the moment. This adds resonance to the sound of Macbeth being the first to applaud the promotion with a slow clap.

The fight sequences are thrilling, convincing the audience of the bravery of the characters foretold with celebrated lines such as, 'Lay on Macduff, And damn'd be him that first cries, "Hold, enough!"' A master of his craft, Tom Peters plays the tragic hero to perfection, wading through slaughter to the throne, after being given a prophesy by three witches and being driven every step by an ambitious wife. Peters shares the self-knowledge of what he has done with the audience in an intimate aside, 'his secret murders sticking on his hands'. The indomitable will of Lady Macbeth is portrayed with intelligence and insight by the gifted Eleanor Montgomery.

The action surrounds the audience continually, generating the exciting atmosphere that has become the Creation Theatre hallmark. Characters roam freely around the park and Banquo(Martin Pirong)'s blood-covered ghost stalks menacingly through the auditorium to visit Macbeth during a dramatic banquet scene. A symbolic body of water above which hangs a dream catcher comprises the adaptable set (designed by Cleo Pettitt) around which the banquet takes place. And don't forget the Porter (Richard Evans), who entertains the modern audience with his speech: 'What three things does drink especially provoke? Marry, Sir, nose-painting, sleep and urine.' Aside from a brief comic relief, this play tells us about how belief in security can be our biggest downfall. So if three wyrd sisters should offer you advice as you tread your way home through the park after dark, in spite of their incredibly hypnotic movement, learn from an old Thane of Cawdor and don't believe their hype!

June 4, 2006
In the first play of its season, The Creation Theatre yet again provides a refreshing alternative to stereotypical performances of Shakespeare.

Originally written in 1606 for King James of Scotland and England, Macbeth is a dark tale of murder and betrayal interspersed with supernatural encounters. Macbeth, urged by his wife and the witches’ prophecy, commits murder in order to gain power. Once king, he tries to safeguard his power by thwarting further prophecies only to find them come true. At the same time, he drives himself and his wife into madness, eventually to the ruin of them both.

Atmospheric depth is brought to the performance through staging the production in Headington Hill park. As the play reached its bloody conclusion, the darkening sky and slight chill in the air created a tension as Macbeth realises the inevitability of his ruin. This also heightened the supernatural scenes of ghosts and witches, along with plenty of stage blood and grisly props. The set itself is very fitting for the play and includes skulls on poles marking the stage boundaries. Even before the production begins you get a sense of the dark deeds and the supernatural that will occur.

The actors in Macbeth avoided one of the common pitfalls of out of doors performances by delivering audible speeches which were both loud and clear. Tom Peters gave a charismatic and terrifying performance as Macbeth. In the famous dagger scene half of the audience turned around to follow his gaze it was so convincing. Lady Macbeth, played by Eleanor Montgomery, was also the subject of a wonderful performance which was both charming and ambitious. You almost feel sorry for her during the sleepwalking scene where she frantically tries to wash the imaginary blood from her hands and inadvertently reveals that Macbeth murdered the King.

An entertaining but grisly interpretation of Macbeth suitable for Shakespeare fans and for those with no previous knowledge of the play.
I went with my school to see this production for my GCSE Macbeth essay. The production allowed us to look at the differences between Polanski's version and the text.

Overall the play was brilliant: its unique peformance made it worthwhile.

The actors were all strong and the staging good. So why did I not enjoy it last night? Because I was stuck in the midst of a huge group of thirteen? year old Spanish schoolchildren who clearly couldn't understand a word and treated it as a farce.

How they laughed and stamped their applause at the end as Macbeth's head was displayed on a pole! How I wish it had been the head of their complacent, idiotic teacher who ruined my annual family trip to Creation. I could cheerfully have stabbed several bubble-gum-popping, crisp-crunching, constantly-sniggering little darlings. Indeed at one point Tom Peters marched up to the upper half of the audiotorium and threatened them with a dagger, to no effect.

I suppose they must have provided half the evening's takings, but does Creation advise such parties on the suitability of particular plays for kids? Or tell them how to behave? I could have partially avoided this issue by paying the extra for seats at the front - ground level. That's my tip if you are thinking of going now in full tourist season.
I have pondered long and hard as to how to sum up this production. Technically there is very little wrong with it. The use of the space is excellent, the set works very well, the costumes suit the mood and the characters. On the whole, the actors acquit themselves well – no obvious problems with verse-speaking (one of my pet peeves when it comes to Shakespearean performances), their characters were clearly delineated.

However, at the moment, the production lacks that certain something to make it really come to life. It is hard to quantify that element of theatrical magic that lifts something up to the next level – but that spark isn’t yet there for me. I am certain that as the run progresses, the performances will get stronger, the production will become tighter and the show more successful.

Macbeth, as a play, rests on the performance of the title character and that of his spouse. Tom Peters as Macbeth gives a very knowing performance – his ambition and passion on display at all times. However I did feel that the emotional journey from loyal thane to tyrannical king was not as clearly thought through as it could have been.

Eleanor Montgomery gives an interesting portrayal of Lady Macbeth. Sometimes coquettish, sometimes openly malevolent – she has clearly invested a great deal of thought into her performance. In the early scenes, there was a great sense of intimacy between husband and wife – but as the play progressed, I was less convinced by how her character developed.

It may read that I did not like this production. That is far from the truth. There are some excellent moments – some innovative handling of the witches, excellent evocation of the battle sequences (impressive when working with such a small cast), effective lighting and sound and good performances.

Hopefully as the summer goes on, the production as a whole will come together into something really special.
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