Summary: Gloriously epic production of Macbeth staged unlike anything you’ve ever seen. With a few minor distractions.
Disclaimer: I worked on the seating of this production. Here’s the model I made, which I enjoyed comparing to the reality using my Kindle Fire version.
- Goosebumps the moment I walked into the room. Nothing (including my 3D model) prepares you for how the transformed Armory space hits you. As you progress to your seats in a beautifully long procession, the witches crawl around in the darkness on the floor. The floor was made into a field complete with rocks, dirt, and an overgrown stone path.
- Everything was staged and blocked to take full advantage of the unique stage and set– two Stonehengey nodes connected by a dirt runway.
- Rain, fire, mud, all used to great effect.
- The lighting was surprisingly understated (not a lot of color), but worked wonders on the set by what it highlighted, what it made soft, what it sharply cast in shadow. In this way it was easy to imagine the same set as everything from a battlefield to the the witches’ lair to a castle.
- Breathless staging moved swiftly from one scene to the next with little or no downtime. The two hours flew by!
- Macduff had a ferocity behind him that I was consistently compelled by.
- Loved the way the witches’ cauldron was done, and the progression of Banquo’s lineage that emerged from it.
- The wide open field was used beautifully only twice– once during a Macbeth vision (understated lamps) and once when the soldiers progress using their foresty shields in a sequence that hit me like the Battle of Helm’s Deep when I first saw The Two Towers.
- Lady Macbeth performed her hand-washing monologue superbly– I cringed throughout it but was also unable to look away.
- I thought Branagh as Macbeth was pretty good– there were times when I felt he was too controlled in his descent into madness. My wife thought it was a strong performance, full of nuance and showing a clear progression of Macbeth from loyal servant to his king, to remorseful killer, to paranoid tyrant.
- End swordfight between Macbeth and Macduff was excellent. Well-choreographed with some great high-energy moments.
- A late start to the show, which I think can be attributed to the clever but unnecessary act of dividing the audience up into clans before marching them into the drill hall.
- Throughout the show we could hear stagehands/actors? rustling behind the seating.
- Some actors handled the size and reverb of the space better than others. Lines were lost.
- The opening swordfight was, frankly, disappointing. Despite the rain and mud and perfect lighting, it was painfully clear all of the extras were progressing through exactly the same swordfight choreography.
- The seats were bleacher-style, and with no intermission, it’s easy to have back pain start to distract from the show as it progresses.
- Tough to follow action that progressed along the runway. I made the seats as tall as possible, but because of the nature of the stage, there’s still moments when you can’t quite look between the heads in front of you.
- My wife thought Lady Macbeth was too consistently crazed the entire show. I didn’t feel that way at first, but after discussing the specifics, I see her point. There wasn’t enough of an arc.
RANDOM THOUGHT: What if the witches aren’t actually psychic? What if they’re like Petyr in Game of Thrones and have all sorts of spies that allow them to plant seeds in the hearts of those they know to be easily corruptible? After all, would Macbeth have done anything if he hadn’t met them?