Bard on the Beach, Vanier Park, until September 13th
My Two Pence
By Charlie Upton
Ah, Bard on the Beach! There is nothing quite like arriving at the signature red-and-white tents at Vanier Park to make you feel that summer has arrived. On opening night it was a beautiful evening, and the open back of the stage let slats of golden light through the minimal but perfectly appointed stage designed by Pam Johnson, including an upper level walkway and two pillars which transform into trees. A single empty cot sits ominously on stage at preset.
The opening of the action is very strong, I will try (in this review) to avoid spoilers about specific elements of the production, however the first two minutes of the show are a strong testament to the level of professionalism from the performers. It is worth noting that the physicality and voice work throughout is quite astonishing (under Voice Coach Alison Matthews); in a city which is well known for it’s amateur or semi-pro stagings, you are never left in any doubt when you go to a Bard show of the level of training, and money, invested.
This Macbeth is a straight-down-the-line production of this seminal Shakespeare and it is handled with vigour and steadiness. We are left in no doubt who the villains and heroes are. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both portrayed as wild, uncontrolled and a little too ‘one-note’. There seems to have been a heavy hand in directing here by Chris Abraham towards grand Shakespearean acting, and I suppose, after all, why not? It is Shakespeare. However, having had some interesting recent discussions about Macbeth and (particularly) Lady Macbeth, to see them played as only evil, then hysterical, then mad, left me wanting for a bit more depth and nuance. It was as if all of their lines and stage directions were in ALL CAPS for THE WHOLE PRODUCTION. There were some formidable performances elsewhere in the cast, as Macduff Andrew Wheeler once again proves his valour as a great of the Vancouver scene. The scene shared by Lindsey Angell (Lady Macduff) and Nicco Del Rio (Macduff’s Son) had a sincerity which was sometimes lost in other places, it was also nice to see a woman in this production who isn’t overwrought from start to finish. Kayvon Khoshkam (Sargeant/Seyton/Porter) is quietly brilliant, and the Gravedigger (unfortunately only billed as a Member of the Company) certainly deserves a shout out by name here, so if I find it I will be sure to update it.
Technically this production is done very well, it is brilliant in it’s complex simplicity. The sound design by Owen Belton is very well thought out. Although not perfectly realised the Fight Choreography by Jonathan Hawley Purvis is exciting and bound only to get better as the show goes through it’s long run over the summer. There were some fantastic lighting effects (Gerald King), marred only by the follow spot for Banquo (Craig Erickson) which was so noticably off mark that it completely takes you out of the story, but with a fix would have otherwise been a very nice effect.
Macbeth is a big one, as Shakespeare goes, and you know you are in safe hands with Bard on the Beach. I don’t think it’s groundbreaking, but it is solid, and a real Shakespeare-for-Shakespeare-fans rendering of this classic.