This semester, St Andrews has been graced with two variants of the stage classic Macbeth; Erica Schmidt’s Mac Beth, an all-female retelling put on independently, and Shakespeare's own text put on through the University funding body Mermaids. We, at the Gay Saint, are of course reviewing the straight one :)
I’ll begin by confessing that when I - a small town Scot with a love of theatre - heard that this would be the Macbeth Semester™ I was slightly nervous about how it would be approached. I’ve seen my fair share of questionable stage accents - I have even created my own weird transatlantic one which I slip into for tutorials - and, on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve met quite a few people who are a little too into Scottishness. Overall, I was somewhat bracing myself for a weird perspective on my own nation to be staged, however, I am delighted to inform you that that was not the case. The lead, Aubrey McCance, hailing from Glasgow, used his own native accent, and so did everyone else in an impressively cohesive transnational way. There was even a wonderful little bagpipe jumpscare played live by Sacha Murray-Threipland! Go Scotland!
Macbeth, directed by Freddie Lawson and produced by Nicole Sellew, focussed heavily on the occult aspect of the play. Much of their marketing has hinged on the use of tarot and prominently features the three weird sister witches. Gone is the overseeing Hecate - these witches are the gods of their stage and anything they say goes. One messes restlessly with the thread of fate (Marcus Judd), one splays her tarot cards and pulls readings from nothing (Emma Dalton), and the third, most innocent looking one, carries a creepy little baby doll with her which at one point she ties a noose around (Tatiana Kneale). Very ooky spooky.
In terms of costuming (by Alex Flagg) and makeup (by Amelia Stokeld) the witches were also the only ones allowed to wear colour that wasn’t their own spilled blood - everyone else was dressed in their very best acting blacks and most actors were wearing smokey eyeliner. Many a character stomped about in their platform Doc Martens wearing outfits which looked like they were accumulated from various charity shops and the occasional depop, and were layered artfully - everyone looks very put together in a way which brilliantly reflects the characters they are portraying, but also suggests a sort of lived-in carelessness; as the two audience members behind me surmised, they all looked like art history students. The set was equally stylish, adorned with various fabrics and sprinkled with candles, it gave the impression that you’d just missed out on a party the Witches threw which you weren’t cool enough to get an invite to. The show was also probably the most technically complex of the semester; with many different lights (by Willa Meloth) coming from all sorts of angles and a ghostly soundtrack and sound effects (by Annalise Roberts) to keep you on edge - it was all a very carefully considered and highly effective show.
I sometimes feel that with Shakespeare stagings everyone is desperate to have their own unique angle and twist to his work, the shows have been put on every which way and everyone wants their version to stick out, however what can sometimes happen is their changes only sink skin deep and don't actually really say anything about the show at hand. Again, this was not the case with Macbeth. The text was reworked around the witches in a manner which highlighted their manipulations and brought a new meaning to the text - you really got a feel that they were staging all these violences, betrayals, and killings for nothing other than their own amusement, like kids playing with dolls. This highlighted the cruelty of Macbeth, contrasting the giggling and gleefulness of the sisters with genuinely moving dramatic performances from Macbeth (Aubrey McCance), Lady Macbeth (Isy Platt) and everyone else.
When the dead - Banquo (Emily Christaki), Lady Macduff (Margot Pue), Duncan (Catriona Kadirkamanathan), and Macduff’s son (Eilidh Read) - rise and haunt their bloody king, they do so with an eeriness; they don’t embody the anger of their live characters, but instead are caricatures of themselves - dripping with stage blood and crawling out from all over the set in a manner which is done entirely to freak Macbeth, and the entire audience, out.
The production featured many familiar faces if you, like me, have some weird compulsion that you simply must see every student show in this tiny town, and everyone gave a performance that was truly worthy of their parents getting on a four hour train to come and see. The line between overacting and underperformance was walked confidently by all parties, every character felt real and haunting in their own right.
Overall, Macbeth was wonderfully done, and I hope everyone involved is proud of what they have achieved. Tickets are still available for tomorrow so go! Have fun! Live a little! This is totally worth the karmic debt you’ll ramp up by saying the word Macbeth in a theatre.