Claiming to be set in eleventh century Scotland, Macbeth at the JDP Theatre is primed to transport its audience to a harsh highland landscape. It is immediately noticeable, then, that there is a complete lack of Scottish accents. English and American accents dominate the production, making it difficult for the cast to truly draw us into the setting the production team have chosen. Despite this initial flaw, the production is highly enjoyable, and the cast succeed in harnessing the gritty emotion of the famous tragedy.
Christopher Page excels as the title role, bringing the ambitious but ultimately doomed character to life with great sensitivity. Page’s physicality and tone ensure that Macbeth’s demise into madness is played with pathos and tenderness, and his apt rendering of the transition from ambitious hero to paranoid tyrant is to be highly commended.
Opposite Page, Hannah Chuckwu performs the iconic Lady Macbeth with a mature stillness that is captivating. Her poise and control stand in perfect contrast to Macbeth’s rages and made her subsequent demise even more powerful. Chuckwu and Page also have a wonderful chemistry; their scenes together skilfully show the complex dynamics of love, tenderness and power that form the core of the Macbeths’ marriage. The closing scene of act one is particularly powerful, and a stand out moment of the production.
In the supporting roles, Cai Jauncey and Benedict Turvill give confident performances as Macduff and Banquo respectively. Turvill’s authoritative stance is well suited to the station of his character, while Jauncey takes on some of Macduff’s more heartfelt moments with huge amounts of of emotion.
Unfortunately, many of the lines from the ensemble were spoken too quietly or rushed, meaning that the audience lost a lot of the dialogue and missed out on what were surely some great performances. It would also be difficult not to mention the scene changes, many of which are unnecessary and laboured, slowing down the performance considerably. Although the stage team clearly worked as quickly as possible, the number of unneeded changes – that ultimately do little to denote any new location – compromise a lot of the tension of the piece. The costumes, on the other hand, are superbly thought out and situate the characters well. The use of face paint is a particular strength, and really helps to locate the piece in a war-torn world.
Overall, Macbeth is an enjoyable production that showcases some superb performances. Page and Chuckwu must once more be commended for their fantastic portrayal of a truly complex pair of characters; their gritty emotion shines through and, with a confident supporting cast, they adeptly convey the pathos that Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy demands.