Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's shortest plays (40% shorter than Hamlet, the longest). Yet Collarbone Productions' time and space machine has, via director Tom Runciman, slashed it down to just under an hour and a half, as well as transporting it from 11th Century Scotland to some contemporary tropical land. The blurb talks of 'tropical heat.... dark sweat of the jungle' – well yes, but the making of a design splash in a production of miniscule budget is difficult. Ruby Eastwood's jungle comprised a background mosquito net – whose dramatic possibilities could possibly have been exploited to advantage - an ivy-clad log, greenery and Lord Ross' topi, while the costumes (designer uncredited) had an eclectic took to them. The expected army fatigues were charmingly enlivened by King Duncan's natty cream jacket with sash and row of medals, and then a Marilyn Monroe T-shirt put in an appearance.
Tom Runciman took some interesting directorial decisions in arranging just one live appearance by just one witch, and then using recorded sound (by Dominic Chambers, and pleasingly clear) to represent other witches, the hired murderer and Banquo's ghost; in the latter case this tellingly thrusts the heat back upon Macbeth's neurotic imagination. The grouping of his cast may have been a trifle static on occasion, and the Dunsinane Castle action, including the culminating fight, was a little fleeting and sparse, but the playing space is of course cramped and there was plenty of evidence that the cast had been well-drilled. Moreover, Tom has taken care to give full weight to Shakespeare's key themes of the perils of overweening ambition, of Macbeth's futile attempts to take control of fate and of the couple's dalliance upon the slippery helter-skelter of violence.
Caroline Taylor's Banquo demonstrated an early optimism of spirit that contrasted effectively with the doubt, then perplexity that eats away at Macbeth from the moment he begins plotting his rise to the top. Caroline, Lucy Mae Humphries' Ross, and Harriet Thomas as a strongly-spoken Prince Malcolm, all dealt confidently with the three male rôles. As Lady Macbeth, Lola Beal managed to transform herself effectively from determined and then steely spouse into something almost skittish as she tried to galvanize the spirits of her distempered lord post-murder, but then cracking in the Banquo's ghost scene, screaming out; 'Stand not upon the order of thy going, but go at once!'
Harry Berry, an excellent car plant worker the other week in Things I Know to Be True, is on stage almost throughout, plotting with precision the progression of Macbeth from respected general to corrupted despot. Although just a little clotted in his diction to begin with, he became impressively vehement in his: 'Wherefore can I not say Amen?' after his regicide, and he conveyed the physical as well as moral discomfort of the man. Then, in the magnificent 10 lines of his 'Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow' soliloquy, Harry rose to the task, delivering the lines slowly and with tremendous emotion. This was a magical moment!