Reclaiming Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is notorious as one of Shakespeare’s most powerful female characters, but her role is often secondary to that of her husband. Twelve Angry’s production of [Lady] Macbeth, directed by Fiona Spitzkowsky, seeks to challenge this, giving Lady Macbeth an equal role to that of her husband and creating ties between the female characters that bring new meaning to the play.

The production’s primary aim was to draw the women depicted in Macbeth, and particularly Lady Macbeth, into the spotlight and afford them an equal role to their male counterparts. This was done impressively, with the combination of characters, subtext and added lines working to create a secondary plot that gives the women of Macbeth equal significance. In combining the Witches with the wives of Macbeth, Macduff and Banquo, the production gave the women the same ties of friendship and trust that initially lies between the men. In turn, the actions of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth lead to the same betrayal amongst the women. Interesting politics are explored here, between Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff, as well as between Lady Macbeth and the additional character Lady Banquo. The betrayal of these women adds another layer of depth to Lady Macbeth’s character, and the play as a whole.

The development of the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, played by Charlie Craig and Alice Marks respectively, was particularly interesting. Unlike many productions of Macbeth, where Macbeth’s lust for power ultimately leads to his indifference towards Lady Macbeth, the couple were portrayed as deeply in love. This was particularly evident at the time of her death, where, rather than growing removed from his wife, Macbeth mourns for her as the final battle begins, and Macduff finds him grieving over her body.

The ensemble cast was generally strong, and are to be commended for portraying intensely emotional scenes without excessive drama. A special mention goes to Alice Marks for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth. Her performance balanced the power, ruthlessness and autonomy of Lady Macbeth with genuine tenderness, evident in her love for Macbeth and grief over the loss of their child.

The set was well suited to the mood of the play. The small venue lent an intimate and foreboding feel to the performance, and kept the audience engaged as the action moved around. However, there were some disadvantages to the layout. The action was, at some times, obstructed, and would have been more so for those seated further back than me. Similarly, it was often difficult to see what was happening when the action moved back through the isle, forcing the majority of the audience to turn in their seats. The raised platform at the back of the stage worked most of the time, but occasionally obstructed crucial action, such as Lady Macbeth’s mental undoing. A scene that could have been particularly effective was thus very difficult for the audience to see or even notice.

A final mention must go to the sound design by Liam Bellman-Sharpe. Largely comprised of an audio of howling wind, the sound was extremely effective in setting the scene and the mood of the play. Similarly, the voice work of the female characters contributed to an eerie atmosphere, and reinforced the friendship and alliances between these characters.

In telling the stories of the female characters in Macbeth, Twelve Angry’s production illuminates an aspect of the play that I, for one, had never before considered, nor seen in any other production. The strength of this theme, as well as strong performances from the cast, ensures that Twelve Angry’s production is as captivating as it is thought provoking.

Matilda Millar-Carton

Twelve Angry’s production of [Lady] Macbeth ran from May 4th – 13th at Tuxedo Cat, La Trobe Street. 

Photo: Bonnie Leigh-Dodds

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