Macbeth to be decked out in doublet and hose or perhaps, as befits the ‘Scottish play’, kilts and sporrans. But Wargrave Theatre Workshop’s talented cast were dressed in Twenties—style suits and trilbys.
Setting this tale of murderous ambition and double—cross as a Mafia power struggle was an inspired idea by dynamic husband and wife team, director Joe and producer Joy Haynes.
The witches in sexy flapper dresses and the twitchy—fingered hoodlums armed with flick—knives and guns gave Wargrave Village Festival’s 15th outdoor Shakespeare production — the seventh directed by Joe Haynes — an edginess that kept the audience spellbound.
The opening scene set the tone: two wandering, guitar—playing minstrels, Alan Fear and Mark Sayers, who look as if they are on their way to a speakeasy, accompany the three “weird sisters” — Emma James, Kelly Doward and Jill Sikkens — in a spirited version of the song
Season Of The Witch.
But the sweet vocals hide their evil intent: to waylay the brave soldier Macbeth and twist his mind with their prophecy that he will be “king hereafter”.
The séance in which their devilish master speaks through these black magic women raises the hairs on the back of your neck, while the famous cauldron scene in which they take great relish in boiling up all—too—real looking “eye of newt and toe of frog” proves you don’t need to look like a hag to be frightening. As Macbeth, John Turner subtly depicts a once good man turning bad. In the famous soliloquies, he shares his inner struggle and fears that he lacks the cold—bloodedness to become, well, the Godfather.
The turning point is his passionate reunion with his wife, Lady Macbeth (Grace Tye, shimmering in silk and sly aspiration). She is no gangster’s moll but an equal partner — their shared longing for the ultimate prize fires each other into action.
First, the genial king Duncan (Martin Lorenz) is stabbed to death as he sleeps in their home and his guards are framed for his murder. Then his sons and rightful heirs Malcolm (Michael Simpson) and Donalbain (Graham Burke) flee for their lives, leaving Macbeth to fill the power vacuum.
The audience rightly needs some light relief after all this intrigue and it comes in the form of the drunken, bawdy porter, which is usually a male role. Charmaine Costelloe’s nudge—nudge, wink—wink performance is hilarious.
However, laughter soon dies as more and more of Macbeth’s enemies bite the dust. Just like Al Capone and the St Valentine’s Day massacre, one murder leads to another as tyrannical Macbeth vies to become the last man standing.
The Macbeths begin to fall apart — at a celebration banquet, he rants and raves as he sees the ghost of Banquo, while she later sleepwalks as she tries to wash the blood of innocents from her hands — “Out, out damned spot!” — and witnessed by the doctor and her maidservant (Henry Marchant and Ann Roberts) she descends into madness and eventual suicide.