Review: Macbeth, Jack Studio Theatre

V&L Productions cut Macbeth down to a fast-paced 75 minutes at the Jack Studio Theatre

“Voices I desire aloud with mine”

On the one hand, there’s something to be said for being over and done with a rapid-fire Macbeth in 75 minutes straight through. On the other, it isn’t abundantly clear what we gain from the exercise. Reimagined by Vince Mathews and Liz Love for V&L Productions, this bit of reduced Shakespeare packs in some memorable moments but never quite establishes a raison d’être for this particular treatment.

Darwin Littlejohns Hennessy’s lighting design probably makes the strongest case, creating some beautiful work in the intimate surroundings of the Jack Studio’s black box. The appearance of the weird sisters is prefigured by distorted shadows, subtle shifts transport us deep into Macbeth’s psyche for his soliloquies and at crucial, apocalyptic moments, saturated blood-red light swallows up the whole space.

The text has been filleted right down with several supporting characters not making the cut, something which has less of an impact than one might think. Love’s direction occasionally mistakes paciness for rapidity, a fair amount of the text early on being spoken a touch too quickly both in terms of clarity and meaning. Later scenes fare better but for the sake of an additional 10/15 minutes, the scene setting could be a little steadier.

Played out in a near-future dystopia, Mathews’ Macbeth does make an effective leading man, believable as a calculating, brutish soldier with James McGregor’s fight direction making his close-combat tussles thrillingly dynamic (and you always gotta love a good punch to the nuts…). David Martinez’s Macduff stands out too but overall, whipping through the play so quickly never really comes off.

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