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Review of Macbeth by William Shakespeare performed by The Masque Theatre at Abington Park, Northampton

I have never made it a secret of my dislike of Mr Shakespeare's work. It's not so much that I hate the stories or the characters he creates, its just that my ears fail completely to attune to his language and often while watching performances, more than any other play I lean towards the production and visual aspect of the show.

Therefore is was once again that during my latest Shakespeare, I watched costumes, sets, lighting and some most glorious make-up work going on. Not to say that I didn't see the actors superb work, there bodies and facial expressions helping me beyond the troublesome language and managing to take me into the story. It helped this time that I was coming at Macbeth as the first of the bards plays that I was seeing for a second time live, having seen the spectacular (and highly physical) feast that the University Of Northampton provided last year (review here). I therefore had a little more knowledge of the tale than I normally would. Here the Masque presented a slightly more traditional version (if you can call bringing the play into somewhere around the 1940's traditional) than the University heavy movement piece.

At the centre of the action we have two towering performances. Macbeth himself played by Martin Williams is every bit as good as you could want for the iconic role. You can very much imagine him as the war hero, but then you travel comfortably with him through his descent, and when being tortured at the hands of the ghostly apparition, you can indeed feel the turmoils of his mind. I believe I have now seen Martin in four Masques now, but he has never been better than he is in this.

Equally confident in performance is first time Masque performer Nicola Osborne as Lady Macbeth. A suitably wicked performance both devilish and at turns slinky, who purveys the scenes while sliding into a veritably delight of dresses. It is indeed a totally convincing and icy performance.

Having seen nine Masque plays now, I am also taking great delight in seeing, in true repertory style, the arrival of old favourites to the stage in their new roles. Many bring everything you expect of them from previous encounters, including the wonderful over the top Barry Dougal, who in the porter scene is an absolute scene stealer. It is indeed fortunate that he is the only no one in the scene, so there is victim to this theft. Old stalwart Owen Warr also brings everything I have encountered before his bold presence, and on my evening showed wonderful professionalism following a nasty mishap. He didn't miss a beat, despite having every right to do so.

John Myhill makes a magnificent return as Banquo following his epic exploits in Amadeus and his show stealing turn in last years summer Shakespeare. Before and beyond death, he is wonderful and in death with his jerking, twisting movements he gave a young lad in front of me quite a creepy feeling that was for sure.

It was excellent to see University student Charlie Clee having survived his bards adventures with a bear earlier in the year, this time back as Lennox, one of the Thanes. While Jof Davies didn't appear drunk in his role this time as one of the two murderers. He was though remarkably and scarily convincing. Finally the three Weyard sisters were magnificent, take a bow Katie Bunting, Jen Kenny and of course another of my Masque favourites Lisa Shepherd. All actually perfectly cast and dressed to kill in magnificent costumes (think big red riding hood) and with suitably wicked, but subtle make-up.

The production values of this performance for an amateur show were also quite incredible. A towering and stunning set constructed by Mark Mortimer, totally on par with a professional production and with the added responsibility of coping with the "occasional" issues of the British summertime. Add this to the tremendous make-up (read blood) work, which is particularly prevalent in Banquo's dispatch and reappearance (SO MUCH BLOOD!) and you have a professional show pretending its amateur.

So you don't get to take a bow like the wonderful actors, but director Matthew Fell, production design Tamsyn Payne, sound and lighting Philip Welsh, and stage manager Jo Molyneux (and assists Bernie Wood and Lasma Paberza), this is your turn to take that bow. *applauds*

A very final comment though on both those tremendously convincing crows that got everybody oohing and aahing during the show and the wonderfully realistic oozing matter from that head bag. Macbeth was indeed bloody magic!




Performance reviewed: 25th July, 2015 at the Abington Park Museum Courtyard, Abington Park, Northampton.

Macbeth is performed by the Masque Theatre until
 Saturday 1st August, 2015 at the Abington Park Courtyard, Abington Park, Northampton.

Details of the Masque Theatre can be found at http://www.masquetheatre.co.uk/

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