"Scottish play for five voices"
by Michael Gray for remotegoat on 24/05/13

The Scottish play with the lights off ?
Appropriate for this company, whose radio work is well known.
And for Shakespeare, whose audiences talked of going to "hear a play".
And for this tragedy, where night and darkness are crucial to the mood, and frequently referenced in the text: "Let not light see my black and deep desires ..." "The instruments of darkness tell us truths ..."
Not actually pitch dark - hard to achieve, especially in a matinee - so we can see ghostly black-clad figures. Light is deliberately used too, for contrast: candles, and strange glowing red balloons. This sort of sensory deprivation is said to enhance the remaining senses, and, text aside, there are screams and footsteps, with thunder and drums on tape.
No scenery needed of course, but there are props: a mobile with the message "The King comes here tonight", an iPod for Fleance.
And what of the words ? Is the Bard enhanced by this treatment - essentially a heavily cut radio version, but in real-life spine-chilling surround sound - especially for those bold enough to sit on the stage, in the thick of the action. If we are to concentrate on the voices and the words, then all the actors need to have clear and compelling voices, with no "imperfect speakers" in the mix. Most successful here is Noel Harron's impassioned Macbeth; Suzanne Goldberg's Lady M a good foil, though lacking the steel, and the maturity, which would make a memorable vocal performance. The company of five is completed by Matthew Grace, Craig Morgan and Andrew Chance, playing amongst many other roles, Malcolm, Banquo and Macduff.
The overall effect is interesting, often intriguing. The silences are frequently the most chilling; the show begins with the Weird Sisters muttering around their dustbin cauldron. There is cackling, and much hollow laughter as the plot unfolds. What little light there is serves to accentuate the darkness - the glow of a lighter before the assassins strike particularly effective. The only face we see is that of Banquo's ghost, eerily lit by a flashing torch - having the prophecies projected onto Macbeth's bare chest was also a clever touch.

Macbeth in Pitch Black is directed by Kevin Williams, composed by Philip Ryder and designed by Jonathan Ashby-Rock.

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