And so opens a new production of Macbeth, this time presented by Class Act Theatre at Subiaco Arts Centre’s studio, directed by Stephen Lee and starring Rhoda Lopez as Lady Macbeth and Nick Maclaine in the title role.
Lee has chosen to bring the Scottish play forward to present day, to equip the entire cast with mobiles and other various gadgets, and dress them up in business attire. ‘Blood will have blood’, doesn’t seem at all unusual in this modern setting; we are forever finding ways to inure ourselves to violence, even as we decry it. Shows like C.S.I., Dexter, Hannibal – the spirit of which the director references – are proof that our lust for tales of blood and intrigue haven’t been left somewhere in Elizabeth’s court.
As I took my seat, I spied something unusual about the stage space: there was nothing in it. No set, apart from some black curtains, some lights and a bare wooden floor. Great; they didn’t need a set at the Globe, did they? Through the course of the play the actors carted the requisite props and set pieces on and off as they went. This makes the show easily portable, which it must be, as it is to tour various regional spots and Perth metro schools in the weeks following the show’s closing at Subiaco Arts.
Lopez, proving herself ever the chameleon, is suitably ambitious and persuasive in her lust for power – for her husband of course. Her descent into madness goes deep, and when that damn spot just won’t go away we feel that Lopez is sincerely perturbed. Maclaine is a young sort of Macbeth, but so much the better; a young Macbeth might be more easily swayed and be far more shortsighted than an older world-weary Macbeth would. He slowly gets bolder and more reckless so that by the end, he is completely out of control. The two have a lot of chemistry, and have done a great job of establishing a natural kind of complicity. They do a fine job of ‘losing it’ without entering caricature territory.
This cast of eight fine actors must play multiple roles, and even Lady Macbeth takes a turn as one of the witches. The director himself joins in as Duncan, making a brief appearance on stage in between calling cues – he’s the stage manager as well. This is a company where everyone pitches in, both on stage and behind the scenes, it seems.
The lights were a bit too dark in parts and we didn’t get a good look at the actors as they made some of the most famous speeches in Shakespeare’s canon, although perhaps we could look upon it as a unique opportunity to listen to the beautiful language without being distracted by the actors’ gorgeous visages. The sound cues were sometimes jarring and the wooden boards proved to be quite slippery during the fast-paced opening scene. The gadget obsession from the cast became just as intrusive in their world as it does in ours. But for the most part, the little updates and modernizations didn’t feel forced or shoe-horned into place.
The company’s season at Subiaco Arts is very nearly sold out, which is a testament to both the timelessness of the work and the eagerness of audiences to delve into this study of the dark side of human nature.
Class Act Theatre: Touring various regional spots and Perth metro schools in the weeks following the show’s closing at Subiaco Arts