The Macbeths: All Hail!

The Macbeths

Victoria: Abridging Macbeth down to just over an hour is a feat in itself, but Maria Lakes distills Shakespeare’s great tragedy down to its most potent parts. Lakes abandons Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Serge Saika and Lakes herself, respectively) to a blank and lonely stage for their love to boil and their sanity to dwindle. The results both haunt and astonish- often in the same scene.

A moody, multifaceted chemistry ties Saika and Lakes together on stage. As thane and lady, they kiss and grope with almost unsettling fervor, only to stomp and yelp and menace one another as paranoia sets in. Playing double-duty as a prophetic witch, the fateful King Duncan and a smattering of messengers and peasants, Saika and Lakes provide their own comic relief with gusto. Quick changes in costume and voice make the new arrangements easy to follow. Lakes, in particular, dominates the stage. Watching her swirling dervish of a witch is a treat, especially when her sanity becomes less questionable (in comparison only) to Lakes’ Lady Macbeth. Saika acts in Lakes’ shadow for a while before his Macbeth degenerates into a very worthy rival for Lakes, trembling with fear and seeing enemies in the stage’s many shadows.

While the duo mimes much of the action and much of Shakespeare’s original has been cut- Banquo, for instance, never appears- this brings an intense focus to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The couple’s dinner guests and advancing enemies are as silent and illusory as the dagger before Macbeth and this isolation strips the characters’ emotions naked. The quick pace of the adaptation shunts the players from one fantasy to the next with only brief moments of respite. That said, Lakes occasionally speaks too quickly to understand the faithfully Shakespearean English, but the lunatic mood never fails to shine coldly through. A few choice howls of wind and regular floods of ice-blue light chill the room even further.

The adaptation of the ending deserves heaps of praise but absolutely cannot be spoiled. Suffice to say that Shakespeare’s disciples will swoon over the staging of Macbeth’s lament for his dead Lady and stay that way through to the ending, which forgoes the politics for something more personal. It’s a crown that sits quite gracefully on The Macbeths’ head, and The Macbeths itself is among this Fringe’s crown jewels.

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By Christopher Felling