Carrying on their run of Shakespearian plays, the Crucible stages his briefest, darkest and bloodiest tragedy. Whilst it’s been 600 years since the play was first performed, its powerful themes still resonate today, making it a great choice close the venue’s 40th anniversary year.
As the lights go down, smoke begins to rise, lighting flashes and thunder assails our ears. One of the most notable changes since Daniel Evans took over as Artistic Director has been the ingenuity and quality the sets and staging. Tonight is no exception.
The decision to stage Macbeth in-the-round is truly inspired. The disorientating nature of the tragedy is augmented by the setting. As Evans states, it is a fitting stage for the Bard’s most psychologically complex and intimate play; drawing you in to the performance. At times it feels like you are actually there; a voyeur spying on hushed conversations, private assignations and brutal acts.
The lighting and sound effects are truly magnificent, as are the costumes and set design: varying from little subtleties such as the smell of candle smoke and the echo in the cathedral scenes, to macabre haemorrhaging. The banquet scene where the apparition of Banquo appears is one of the best bits of theatre I have ever seen.
With the in-the-round setting, a huge burden is placed on the actors as the audience see the plot unfold from every angle. Geoffrey Streatfeild brings an understated, yet power intensity to Macbeth; embodying all his weaknesses and flaws, leaving him open to the persuasion of Claudie Blakley’s malignant Lady Macbeth. Their scenes together shimmer and crackle with sexual tension and depravity. Indeed, Claudie Blakley is the best Lady Macbeth I’ve seen. She brings a naturalism and energy to her part, aligned with a dark intensity laced with malice.
Evans has invoked a dark, brutal and bloody re-telling of Shakespeare’s most twisted tragedy, sticking to its root whilst remaining fresh and viral.