Macbeth @ The Abbey Theatre

April 2, 2010


No blood lust. No passion. No thirst for power. No tension, no danger, no journey. No mysticism, no sense of foreboding, no panic. And absolutely no desire to sit through it all again.  A multitude of actors flock about the stage doing not very much at all which, added to the obtuse music, gimmicky set and overall lack of vision on the part of the director led to a very hollow, thoroughly disappointing night at the National Theatre.

The playing is universally dull. While no one seems uncomfortable with the text, no one seems particularly interested in it either and not one of the actors brings a sense of awareness or intent to their performance. With all their talk of unruly weather “blowing chimneys down” and “a night that’s as cold as hell” not once did I see an actor physically acknowledge the elements. As actors enter bearing news, good or bad, no one takes the time to digest whats being said, just fling themselves into reacting, excreting their lines without a second thought for what they mean. And despite the richness and ductility of the parts, and the wealth of talent on stage, no one tried to put their own stamp on their roles.

Most damaging are a pair of leads who are so restrained, so far removed from their characters they may as well be next door in the Peacock. Eileen Walsh is a particular disappointment. Sexless and seemingly thoughtless she does a poor job at realising the fiendish wretch, the shrewd manipulator who creates a political Frankenstein and then looses her grip on him…and reality. Aidan Kelly never makes you believe that he is grappling with the magnitude of his crime or that he is ever in any doubt of committing it. While both seem physically uncomfortable with one another. The fatalistic passion one is supposed to arouse in the other is never expressed. Their desperate threats, pleas and appeals are muted, their paranoia is forced and their ambition too ambiguous. It must be noted that Kelly pulls it together in the second half while Walsh catches sight of how Lady Macbeth is supposed to behave in the banquet scene (before loosing it again, forever after) but how little of themselves they give to the role is one of the years first major bitter dissapointments.

 

What seemed like an interesting stab at realism with the witches is quickly dispersed for a rather turgid restaging of The Craft, that lacked coherence, mysticism or debt and the chillingly credible murder of Andrea Irvine, as Lady Macduff, which gave the show its only bit of vitality, is ruined by a booming rendition of Blake’s Jerusalem by Billy Bragg.

For a show as bloody as this the on stage violence is disappointingly sparse with Fay opting to commit most of the bloodshed behind a giant screen which becomes an irritant during the final showdown between Macbeth and Macduff, pulling focus and never justifying its presence. Nothing should ever be put upon a stage unless it is absolutely necessary, particularly in the current fiscal environment, but there is so much clutter heaped on the basic story that the words seem like artificial colorings added to spice up what some might think as ‘impressive’ production values. (I do not).

With six weeks of rehearsal, an impressive budget, a cast most would kill for …what has director Jimmy Fay been doing all this time?

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