By Romano Mullin
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Its themes concern unchecked ambition; the fracturing of a state and the psychological turmoil of guilt. The play is underpinned by the bloody imprint of murder and war: no wonder, then, that the ‘Scottish Play’ reverberates so strongly within the Northern Irish imagination. Indeed, Lynne Parker, the director of the Lyric Theatre's production of Macbeth, has taken on the challenge of transforming Macbeth into a Belfast play.
The cast are a superb blend of old hands and new; all local actors and familiar Lyric faces, emphasising Parker’s determination to steer this cultural behemoth into a distinctly Northern Irish territory.
The first striking aspect of the play is the inventive use of a stark, bare stage. It creates an atmosphere of apprehension, and a sense of distorted reality, that is in key with the shifting alliances and bloody deeds of the play.
The eponymous role is handled admirably by Stuart Graham. As the play progresses, we witness a blinding insanity envelope his mind – reflected in his prominent, physical stage presence (which occasionally borders on the overpowering).
Lady Macbeth is portrayed with subtle power by the fantastic Andrea Irvine. Her moral quandaries bubble at the surface of proceedings as she spirals further a
nd further into chaos.
Yet it is the three witches, played by Carol Moore, Eleanor Methven and Claire Rafferty that are the most captivating members of the cast. Parker has appropriated the witches as a force of malicious momentum throughout the play. They dominate each scene with malignity and darkness, in the compelling guise of three domestic Ulster women.
Parker’s Macbeth does not overtly express a position on the North. Instead, by subtle inference, an ingenious use of costume allusion – and by the fact it is staged here, in this city – she has created a deeply felt and truly impressive piece of theatre. The most moving scene of the play is when Macduff learns of the slaughter of his family, his ‘pretty ones’. It is a masterful performance by Paul Mallon, illustrating well the sorrow and horror of conflict.
Lynne Parker’s take on Macbeth twists it into something horribly familiar for its Belfast audience. Macbeth is transported from the boggy, bloody lands of civil war-torn Scotland, to an exploration of the inner workings of the Ulster psyche, and the deep pain of recent Irish history.
To view the upcoming programme for the Lyric Theatre, click here
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