Jun 14 2012 By Jo-Anne Rowney
The witches from The Chiltern Shakespeare Company's production of Macbeth with ex-BBC weatherman Bill Gates, patron of Iain Rennie Hospice Care
WITH so many of Shakespeare’s plays being reinvented with a modern twist it was something of a surprise to find a group performing one of the bard’s greatest tragedies as it was first written - no holds barred.
The Chiltern Shakespeare Company resist the temptation to bring the playwright’s work kicking and screaming into the contemporary world, instead reveling in its gothic nature, shocking murderers and rich regal setting.
The play holds nothing back, with people’s throats being cut as the body county mounts up. There’s definitely plenty of action - with local actor Lawrence Green, of Chesham Bois, proving to be quite a swordsman as Macbeth.
Macbeth follows the journey of a brave Scottish general who recieves a prophecy from three witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed with the idea and spurred on by his wife, Macbeth kills King Duncan taking the throne for himself. But his reign is racked with guilt and paranoia, leading to more murders and his eventual downfall.
The Chiltern Shakespeare Company production begins with Macbeth returning victorious from battle, but he is soon tempted by the trio of creepy witches and their tales lead him down a dangerous path.
At the centre of the play is Lawrence Green, a rugged dark figure, convincing as a soldier and man of war, but equally fascinating to watch as he unravels under the guilt and pressure of committing murder. But Green’s best scenes are when he takes the stage with Louise Mappley who plays his wife. There is a real intensity about the two, only increased by the interesting dynamic of Lady Macbeth being an older woman.
Alone Mappley is equally as impressive, if not mesmerising as she plays the sexless temptress - especially with her soliloquy talking about the lengths she will go to take the crown.
While the audience included a crowd of school children, the cast didn’t hold back on the gore. For example when the men come to kill Lady Macduff and her son, the boy is slaughtered centre stage with his cries ringing out as the henchmen kick and stab him. Lady Macduff thankfully is dragged screaming off stage, but even her painful shrieks silenced the crowd.
This fast paced action production plays out the horror in full force and pushed forward by a foreboding music score creates a sense of urgency to Shakespeare’s shortest - and arguably bloodiest - play.
The little details though are what really make this production, with a detailed castle setting - which took designer Helen Sendell 60 hours to paint - a team of mini witches, a real bubbling cauldron and exquisite period costumes the production team’s attention to detail draws you just as much as the intense performance.
A warning tale of how ambition corrupts, as well as a look at tyranny and guilt, Macbeth is often heralded as one of Shakespeare’s best plays. With the The Chiltern Shakespeare Company taking the adapted play back to its raw gothic roots - where it belongs - its easy to see why.
Macbeth is on at the Hall Barn Estate open air theatre, Beaconsfield. Performances are on Wednesday June 20 to Friday 22, 8pm and Saturday June 23 2pm and 8pm.
Tickets £15 to £23. Concessions for senior citizens, children and students and the Saturday matinee.
Book online at www.chiltern-shakespeare.co.uk or call 08700 667 720.