All Female Cast Gives Macbeth a First Run at the Chiswick Playhouse

Susan Stanley-Carroll finds production underwhelming

Macbeth runs at Chiswick Playhouse until 6 November
Macbeth runs at Chiswick Playhouse until 6 November

The Chiswick Playhouse, is hosting for the first time, William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ with an all-female cast. The drama explores the traditional feisty, male tragedy ’s range of themes including ambition and lust for power; it presents a good opportunity for those studying the play to watch a live performance in West London but, at the moment, it lacks dynamism.

‘Macbeth’ can be rather like marmite: some love it and others detest it. Although I am fascinated by it, the opening night, of this production, was underwhelming.

The nine actors performed well together and created, on the whole, a convincing theatrical ensemble. However, ‘first night’ nerves, probably, reduced many of the performances to shadowy characterisations. Competent but lacking conviction and fire.

Macbeth (Beckis Cooper) and Lady Macbeth (Emma Clifford) need to pulsate with ambition and nuance their performances, with reflective moments, enabling the audience to be stirred by their evil desires to kill all others, who they cannot control, for they are controlled by witchcraft.

Emma Clifford as Lady Macbeth
Emma Clifford as Lady Macbeth

Several cameo roles bounced into action particularly Caroline O’ Mahoney who played the Porter with sparkling wit and her interaction with the audience was delightful. She developed a range of other roles including the Sergeant, Fleance and Macduff’s son sustaining her innate glow as she morphed from character to character.

The imaginative choreography for the witches’ scenes added an experimental dimension to this, on the whole, stolid production. The white robed beguiling witches - reminiscent of patients in an Edwardian lunatic asylum - were creepy and disturbing.

The witches' scene was imaginatively choreographed
The witches' scene was imaginatively choreographed

Celia Learmouth played not only the role of a malevolent witch but also a charismatic Macduff. She created a robust, furious character ignited by revenge and the auditorium was lit up with Macduff’s anger and hate.

Several all-female ‘Macbeth’ casts have been produced globally with strong reviews. However, this production, is, at the moment, lacking the vigour and electricity that one should feel with such a masterpiece of a play. Here’s hoping such a diligent team of actors will have turned on the power and passion that the play demands by the time this review is published.

Tickets are available from Chiswick Playhouse’s website.

Susan Stanley-Carroll

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October 23, 2021