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Icarus Theatre Collective

Macbeth


International Tour
August 2011 - June 2012
A co-production with King's Theatre, Southsea
in association with South Hill Park Arts Centre

Macbeth
Wordpress Blog

Macbeth

by William Shakespeare

Something wicked this way comes...

five starsRemotegoat
five stars Carrick Biz
five starsStage, Screen...
four stars ThePublicReview
four stars Oxford Theatre...
four stars Three Weeks

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Reviews

Stage, Screen and the Mistyque

5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

Macbeth’ Review - Icarus Theatre Collective (Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford - 20th Sept 2011)

I remember ‘Macbeth’ from School…as a teenager (some time ago now…) I became captivated by the written word and whilst my classmates groaned when the teacher began to speak the words ‘we’ll be studying Shakespeare’s…’ I was thrilled; Shakespeare’s verse was to me, poetic, beautiful, tragic and exhilarating.


Though I also vividly remember sitting in a classroom being disappointed by an actor’s interpretation of the infamous ‘to be, or not to be’ soliloquy in ‘Hamlet’ and watching productions which seemed lifeless and did not encapsulate the genius of Shakespeare’s tragedy’s. 

Shakespeare, I believe can sometimes be played too austerely, not wanting to offend, the production steers on the side of caution and the audience receives a good but uninspiring play which is why I was looking forward to see the International Tour version by Icarus Theatre Collective (they had previously produced a shorter version of the play at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival).

Icarus Theatre Collective, renowned for its bold and striking productions which are both visceral and intellectual and with a body of work including ‘The Lesson’ (Eugène Ionesco), ‘Journey’s End’ (R. C. Sherriff) ‘Othello’ and ‘Hamlet’ (William Shakespeare) my expectations were high…and I was not to be disappointed.

In the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guilford about an hour from London’s west end I watched intently, captivated and on the edge of my seat.


This production of Macbeth was exhilarating, tragic, intelligent, beautiful and blood-thirsty. The witches played by the terrific Richard Hay, Emma Carter and Sophie Brooke were wonderful to watch, their movements, bird-like and at points skilfully in unison were a refreshing take of the witches of ‘Macbeth’, far too often clichéd in both film and stage adaptations.

These witches, clothed simply brown hooded cloaks were living creatures on stage and I was waiting in expectation for the ‘double, double, toil and trouble’ scene which was excellently wicked and simply done, a unique choice of using five small plinths in a circle to represent a cauldron.

The set itself, simple yet striking is all you need to visualise the time and the action on stage. It’s slightly gothic, giving the production that sense of impending tragedy, darkly deeds and most of all its hauntingly atmospheric. Look out for the bane moon and the plinths on stage during the play…

Joel Gorf who plays the lead role as Macbeth is just mesmerising to watch. Brilliantly cast, he is the embodiment of Macbeth and plays the character with brutality but an underlying vulnerability that is not seen often in ‘Macbeth’ and hardly ever done well. His Lady Macbeth played by the wonderful, Sophie Brooke is a refreshing take on the character. Lady Macbeth is played wonderfully manic, a sexual and power-hungry creature, loosing control before our very eyes. I can’t imagine another actress doing this role, to me this portrayal encapsulates the character completely.

One added touch, which makes this production truly amazing, is the transformation of the actors doubling up into various roles and what is remarkable is that you don’t really notice. The transition is so seamless and the actors so talented that this feels natural and you’re clear as to who’s who on stage.


The success of this can be seen by Matthew Bloxham who plays Banquo, The Doctor and The Porter. Bloxham seamlessly changes to each character and it is through this change we see the distinct qualities of each. From a strong and loyal Banquo, a character endearing and heroic to the Porter - the fool in the play providing comic relief (brilliantly executed by the actor with excellent comic timing) to The Doctor, where I had to double take to see if this was indeed the same man, as with his hair slicked back in this scene (the actor has naturally curly hair) and a completely different stance, mannerisms and accent I was amazed by his versatility. 

The sound effects and music within the play is carefully done, which encompasses an almost cinematic feel to the production. Watch out for the chilling use of sound in the murder scene of Lady Macduff and child.
The fight scenes within this production of Macbeth are something to behold, choreographed brilliantly, they are almost terrifying. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins, and I was a mere audience member sitting in the stalls. Gone from my mind were all the fight scenes in Shakespearian plays that I have seen on stage where the actors are being too careful and delicate in their movements.

These fight scenes are brutal yet beautiful and harmonious at the same time. Coupled with striking and complex lighting cues these scenes are one of the many highlights of the production. The opening battle in particular sets the tone for the play and is brilliantly executed by the cast of what appeared to me as very accomplished stage-combat trained actors. Most notable also is the final fight scene between Macbeth and Macduff (brilliantly played by Joel Gorf and Costa Chard) where the fighting is amplified by the excellent acting and emotional range on stage, Macduff’s vengeance perfectly executed by Costa Chard and is a joy to watch. 

And where would a production of ‘Macbeth’ be without the use of blood, such a powerful and emotive signifier and difficult to get right. Too much and it appears brash and senseless, too little and the audience is left wondering what the red-like substance is from the balcony seats. Let’s remember too that blood is messy, even more so when you are a mid-scale touring theatre company but Icarus Theatre Collective makes it work and deliciously well! After Macbeth has killed Duncan, the blood transfixes Lady Macbeth and it’s this signifier that tells the story of Macbeth’s bloody deed and the beginning of Lady Macbeth’s decent into madness.


So I implore you to find a venue near you and watch this for yourselves, this ‘Macbeth’ is something to behold, it pulls no punches, it develops these characters into flesh and blood human beings and the director, Max Lewendel is instrumental in making this happen. For without a concept and a vision and the execution of this vision by a stellar cast and stage manager this ‘Macbeth’ would fade into the background with the many other productions produced every year. As it is, it shines brightly and like it’s name implies, Icarus Theatre Collective has wings and long may it continue to be fearless in pushing boundaries, challenging it’s audiences and creating powerful and moving drama. 

 

Victoria Claringbold, Remotegoat

5 Stars

Concise vision of dystopian Scotland

A remarkably high-octane Macbeth graces the new town theatre in Edinburgh this month. Icarus Theatre Collective ensures that their shortened version of Macbeth is as action packed as it is exhilarating to watch. With sword, axe, spear and bare fist fighting it is an impressively energetic and dynamic production condensed into eighty minutes.

With dry ice, a red cloth that falls down one side of the stage and what looks like steel grey girders dissecting the backdrop the scene is set. The witches hooded and cloaked in brown are suitably creepy, as they croak, bend and twist around the stage.

The staging is effective with different levels used throughout. Mayou Trikerioti's set design includes red lights that splinter the girders at different points in the play underlining the plot and bringing out the themes of desire, death and destruction.

The actor's reactions were fantastic, notably when Banquo (Matthew Bloxham) gives Macbeth (a booming Joel Gorf) a knowing look in one early scene. Sophie Brooke as Lady Macbeth brought a wonderfully unhinged quality to the play; with wide eyed depravity she provokes Macbeth into his eventual undoing.

Joel Gorf's testosterone-fueled Macbeth is vicious and ambitious as he powers through the famous dagger speech. This is later contrasted wonderfully by the frenzied fear he shows on seeing the ghost of Banquo.

The doubling up of actors and characters make for a lot of quick changes through the play but the different characterisations are expertly realised. This is evident in the ease with which Costa Chard slips from Lenox to Fleance to Macduff. His anguish (as Macduff) at losing his beloved family is palpable and painful to watch as he kneels cowering on the ground.

The supporting cast were compelling and made this concentrated version of Macbeth a dazzling, potent production. This Macbeth is a dusky affair with some striking performances, don't miss it.

 

David Kerr, Carrick Biz

5 Stars

SHAKESPEARE'S plays are often regarded as worthy but boring.  That's what comes of reading them in school rather than watching them performed.  Given the right treatment, Hamlet, Julius Caeser and Macbeth can be as gripping as any Hollywood blockbuster.

This production fits the bill perfectly.  The high-octane opening battle sets the scene for this dark tale on intrigue and violence. Despite the limitations of a small cast of seven, the cast have the choreography so perfect that they can switch roles in seconds with quick alterations of costume. In a red dress, Sophie Brooke is Lady Macbeth; with a cloak over her head she becomes one of the Three Witches.  With other variations of her costume she becomes a Murderer or Rosse.  The action is fast-moving and unrelenting, so pay attention.

Five Stars alone are due to the designers of the simple set and the expressive mood-setting lighting and sound. You'll find out what a bane-moon looks like.

 

Fiona Kao, Oxford Theatre Review

4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

From the beginning, the play grips the audience with its sound effects and lighting. The set is simple: an eerie moon overlooking the stage, a fence of stony planks in the background with lightning bolt cracks that light up in evil red, and several stools of wooden blocks with differing heights to enable vertical movements on stage. Each witch has her own peculiar cackle and demeanor, and the audience glimpses the hidden world of the black arts. The change from scene to scene is efficient though not fully executed by the actors—the three witches throw off their russet cloaks, transformed into Scottish thanes, and the story flows on, though the audience’s mind is left behind. The performance has a cast of only seven actors, meaning some must take on as many as five roles.


Lady Macbeth, played by Sophie Brooke, the same actress that plays one of the witches, expertly fuses the two characters. As she reads Macbeth’s letter, she contemplates murderous thoughts and calls upon the spirits to assist her. Her twisted figure along with her twisted mind denote that of a witch. At the same time, the silhouette of a raven appears before the ominous moon. The audience’s eyes often flick to the moon as it at times has blood draped over it, at times becomes an eclipse, and at times turns blood red. Lady Macbeth retains her witch-like qualities throughout the play; as she persuades her husband to murder the king, her hands retracted into claws and her sweet words became as soothing as a serpent.


Macbeth, played by Joel Gorf, is equally riveting. One of the greatest difficulties in playing Macbeth is depicting him not just as a base villain but a valiant hero caught in the snares of his own ambition and his wife’s emasculating remarks, and Joel Gorf has played the villain hero magnificently. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are rivals and equals, their interaction tense and lustful like a dance move. However, the witches slithering in the background in many of the scenes in the first half, not found in the original Shakespeare, poses the question of whether Macbeth ever had the chance to fight the prophecies. The witches are out of sight but not out of mind in the second half, and Macbeth, Macduff, and Malcolm are left to fight their human battles.


The props are used creatively, which allows a rapid change of scenes. For example, the red curtain drawn sideways with four swords poked downwards function as the banquet table, and Banquo, killed in the previous scene and hidden behind a chair, conveniently appears as a ghost in the banquet scene. If only there were more actors so that the characters were more distinguishable or the costumes more strongly memorable (the killers, with their cloaks, looked oddly similar to the witches). Yet this is just a glitch compared to the powerful characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The play, overall, is enjoyably chilling.

 

Anna Brown, Oxford Theatre Review

4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

A favourite play chosen for study of Shakespeare’s works in university-level English classes, "Macbeth" is a story of ambition taken to its bloody extreme, and one that leaves many innocent people strewn in its path of betrayal, slain by a tyrant. The Icarus Theatre Collective’s rendition of this classic tragedy is passionate and overall well worth the investment (both in money and time, as the play is nearly 3 hours).


Opening with an intense battle scene, the actors are carefully placed on stage so as to create an almost palpable tension that immediately grabs the audience’s full attention. Although this tension fades somewhat as the sound effects diminish, the momentum of the play does not falter due to the limited formal scene changes. The actors add and remove props quite seamlessly during the performance to maintain the flow of the play, albeit in a slightly distracting way at times. The actors bring superb talent to this show, with many of them having at least 4 roles in the play. Although at times the shifting of the actors between roles can be confusing, by the end of the performance the dynamism of many characters can be greatly appreciated by the audience.


I would like to draw special attention to Matthew Bloxham, who gave a stellar performance in his many roles (Banquo, Porter, Young Siward, Murderer, Doctor) and particularly with his role as Porter brought some much-needed comic relief to the otherwise rather grim plot and mentally unstable personae of other characters. Other highlights of the show were the director’s and designers’ thematic use of the moon as a focal point for the atmosphere of particular scenes with increasing amounts of “spilled blood” cascading from the top of the moon and showing the passing of time with clouds. One especially stellar element was the infamous “double, double toil and trouble” witch brew scene, with a very creative use of fog-like vapour, a piercing spotlight, and flames in the face of the moon to portray a spooky ethereal spirit with a chilling voice. The sound effects rose to a crescendo to match the growing energy of the scene in a synergistic way, truly drawing the audience into the play. On a side note, this element was perfectly fit for opening the play on Halloween, evoking similarly spooky or “scary” associations as the costumes of many students parading outside for the holiday. Other set elements used such as red jagged lights effectively conveyed the mounting bloodshed and pervading sense of fear and loss under Macbeth’s brutal reign as king. Thus the set constructed a very creative and powerful atmosphere, which was a highlight of this performance.


A few minor criticisms that ultimately did not affect my rating of this play are inconsistent sound effects, the seemingly forced relationship between Lady Macbeth (played by Sophie Brooke) and Macbeth (played by Joel Gorf), and lighting which often left actors in dark areas. Specifically, in the opening fight scene a more continuous barrage of sound effects would have helped maintain the tension and energy established by the actors, while in contrast, several sound effects later in the second half were nearly unbearable for the audience, including a very loud crying baby sound which caused many in the audience to plug their ears. Secondly, although the initial embrace and kiss between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth was very passionate and believable, this powerful connection seemed to diminish over the course of the play and subsequent embraces were rigid and awkward. Perhaps this merely reflected the rapidly declining mental state of each character as the guilt and ghost haunting eroded away their sanity; however, a more emotionally powerful connection could have maintained a passionate, conspirator-oriented relationship throughout the show. Finally, the lighting for some of the soliloquies was largely ineffective at focussing the audience’s attention on the actor speaking. One prime example of this inadequate lighting was during Lady Macbeth’s opening scene, where her face was hidden in shadows while she read the letter from Macbeth, thus obscuring her facial expressions.


Overall, however, the positive aspects of this play outweigh the shortcomings, and the quality of Shakespeare’s original text is maintained by this rendition. Creative interpretations such as effective use of the moon as a focal point of the play as well as showing the Macbeth dinner scene twice, once where Banquo’s ghost is visible and again from the opposite camera perspective with no ghost visible, added new dimensions of meaning to the original text. The dinner scene idea is evocative of other presentations of altered reality, such as in the movie A Beautiful Mind. I think the effect was especially powerful in this performance because the audience truly saw both perspectives of Macbeth’s borderline insanity, seeing the ghost as Macbeth did and then seeing the same scene from the guests’ and Lady Macbeth’s perspective. This scene also revealed Sophie Brooke’s best performance in the play as Lady Macbeth attempting to ameliorate the situation by apologizing to guests and placating Macbeth.


In sum, while maintaining the integrity of Shakespeare’s original script, the Icarus Theatre Collective’s take on "Macbeth" adds numerous creative elements, riveting emotional and fight scenes, and novel thematic elements to draw in the audience, leaving a lasting unsettling sensation about this formidable tragedy. While some technical sound and lighting issues and the naturalness of the Macbeth couple’s relationship could be improved, the performance as a whole is commendable and definitely worthwhile to see.

 

Danielle Grogan, Three Weeks

4 Stars

Passion. Corruption. Revenge. And some rather odd set design. These are ingredients that make this production of ‘Macbeth’ both memorable and different. Sophie Brookes’ Lady Macbeth is a guileful and carnal creature, accentuating her role as Macbeth’s manipulator and lover and as a result, the on-stage chemistry between Brookes and Joel Gorf is electrifying, pre-empting the toxic end to the relationship. The witches remain ever-present on-stage, which is effective in illustrating their key role in the tragedy. My only criticism is the moon, oddly emblazoned at various times with birds and lightning bolts – an attempt at symbolism which left me confused; particularly when it became the eye of Sauron and spoke to Macbeth in Act 4…

 

Alice Longhurst, The Public Reviews

5 Stars

With this year’s Fringe featuring no less than eight versions of the Scottish play I approached this show with some trepidation. What an earth might they do to stand out? What clever setting, innovative special effects, or contemporary influences might they abuse in the name of art?

As it turned out my fears were unfounded. Director Max Lewendel has chosen accuracy over originality, which actually makes the production quite unusual in its own right, to create an almost perfectly accurate reproduction of the text, excepting a few omissions to meet the eighty minute running length.

Reductions are also made to the cast, and sadly this is where things unravel a little. With just seven actors frequent character doubling is required, and for those less familiar with the plot the lack of clear distinction between roles may well quickly become confusing. This aside, there are good performances, particularly from the powerful lead Joel Gorf and Sophie Brooke’s wild-eyed Lady Macbeth, who comes across as wonderfully hysterical, although perhaps a little lacking in malevolence. Zachary Holton, a great bear of a man, is perfectly cast as an amiable old Duncan. Overall the acting is strong, if a little wooden, and at any rate the stiffness is dispelled in the convincingly choreographed battle scenes.

Costumes channel the historical background to the tale, with medieval cloaks, great big spears and slightly comical oversized furry boots. Infernal glowing red cuts slashed into the upright blocks which form the backdrop combine with the dim lighting and bright full moon to create a darkly atmospheric frame for the bloody tale.

In all, this production is unusual at a Fringe full of crazy contemporary interpretations of the classics, and as a traditional telling it is sure to please many purists. For the more open minded, there’s nothing new or challenging here, but it is slick and well performed show.

 

Keith D, Edinburgh Spotlight

3 Stars

With a Fringe awash with productions of Shakespeare’s plays adapted unrecognisably to within an inch of their texts, Icarus Theatre Collective’s traditional take on Macbeth comes as something of a relief.

In this 80 minute version of the bloody play, Icarus’ only deviation from convention is to cut some of the original to make it fit the running time. Everything else is present and correct: a brooding psychotic Macbeth; his scheming Lady; and the wyrd sisters – all played by a cast of seven actors who play the principal and supporting parts between them.

Costume design takes its cues from Celtic Britain; and the simple set is evocative and striking – black monoliths on which fiery cracks appear as the play progresses, symbolising the relentless and terrible tragedy which unfolds.

Direction moves things forward at a fast pace, punctuated with some striking fight choreography which explodes onstage at the requisite points. And although performances may not set the stage alight with the same intensity, the actors are all strong in their roles, particularly Macbeth himself – a powder keg of a man on a short and constantly burning fuse.

Traditional and fast-paced, Icarus should be commended for deciding not to go for shock tactics and gimmicks in their staging of Macbeth. And although that very traditionalism means its voice may struggle to be heard amongst the rest of those on the Fringe, it is a well-staged and watchable version of the Scottish play.

 

Dr. GŁnther Hennecke, Journalismus

 

Blood lightning over Macbeth (translated from the German)

It began with battle and intrigue. "Macbeth" came from London and showed at the Rhine what royal politics are capable of effecting. It may be coincidence that the driving force is an English lady (played by the terrific and sneaky Sophie Brooke), who with complete use of her body congeals to a personification of power hunger. Definitely no coincidence is the fact that “Icarus Theatre” pay their respects to the typically English art of theatre: the glorious seven showed their solid presence in a realistic and straightforward production filled with the metallic rattle of cut and thrust weapons. Under Max Lavendel’s direction, brilliant lighting design complements the performance and blood-red flashes in basalt steles stand for killing and murder. In the end, there are seven bodies.

 

Von Magdalena Marek, Newsline


Macbeth: Fast-Paced and Dark
(translated from the German)

The London-based Icarus Theatre Collective opens the festival at the Globe Theatre Neuss. Bloody, archaic and brutal. This year's Shakespeare festival at the Globe on the Rennbahn begins with a production of Macbeth in its original language, by the Icarus Theatre Collective from London.

Already the stage design appears cold and brutal. Arranged in a semi-circle are tall pillars of steel plate which erupt in blood-red over the course of the performance. Swords, daggers and axes dominate the scenery designed by Mayou Trikerioti. Attached above the stage, there is an, initially, bright-white full moon, which changes its appearance according to the events. At times it is split apart, at times it gleams blood-red.

Max Lewendel's production is fast-paced and pulls the audience straight into its events. The battle begins, Macbeth and his men defeat Norwegian intruders. But the joy about this victory is only short-lived. Immediately after the battle, the three witches, beautifully eerily played by Sophie Brooke, Emma Carter und Kaiden Dubois, cast their spell over Macbeth. Their prophecy that Macbeth (convincing: Joel Gorf) will first become thane of Cawdor and then even king of Scotland sets the disaster in motion. However, only conjurations of Lady Macbeth (Sophie Brooke in an outstanding performance with haunting voice and facial expressions) make the initially hesitant Macbeth dare do the unthinkable. He uses the overnight stay of King Duncan (formidable: Zachary Holton) in his castle to kill the defenseless king in his sleep.

Macbeth is performed by only seven actors, who switch costumes and roles within seconds and thus portray four or five different characters each. John Eastman, for example, not only plays the General Banquo, but also a carrier, a murderer, and Macbeth's doctor. The other performers also convince in their parts: for example, Zachary Holton as Duncan and old man, Richard Maxted as Macduff, Lenox, Fleance and Soldier, or Emma Carter, who not only plays Lady Macduff but also one of the witches and Donalbain. The audience, however, has to concentrate hard to not lose track of who is who and when.

Particularly haunting is the piece because of the use of music and sounds, designed by Theo Holloway. The effect is outstanding in a scene which begins unusually peacefully: Lady Macduff, her baby in her arms, speaks to her playing son. The happy moment is interrupted abruptly by Macbeth's henchmen.

Accompanied by thundering music, which physically shakes the Globe's floor, and the bloodcurdling screams of a baby, mother and children are massacred. And thus the tension only leaves the audience when in the last scene, Duncan's son Macduff meets Macbeth, kills him and takes his place as the right and lawful king of Scotland.

 

Damien Bullen, Damowords

Macbeth on a dreekit afternoon!

I was looking forward to MACBETH at the NEW TOWN THEATRE (12-28 / 13.00h) by Icarus productions this afternoon as it would be my first play of the festival in the more traditional vain of theatre. And I wasn’t disappointed! Opening with a dramatic sword fight on a darkened set with a full moon shining down on the actors, and immediately we are transported into the world of Shakespeare. From here the classic begins as the three witches plot the wicked downfall of Macbeth and the Murder of King Duncan. The stand out performance goes to Lady Macbeth played by Sophie Brook whose sinister plotting and eventual downfall is preformed pitch perfectly. I think I am in love(maybe for the third time this week!) The use of the moon was very atmospheric turning to blood red at moments of treachery, and then becoming a full force of dark nature in the scene where Macbeth becomes lost under the spell of the witches. In fact all the moments of treachery and bloodshed were absolutely thrilling, sending chills down my spine, especially when Macduff’s wife and son are murdered. Absolutely spine-tingling!

I am by far not an expert on Shakespeare or ‘the Scottish play’ but on a miserable wet festival afternoon it isn’t bad to be transported back to the dark days of Scotland in the year 1000 A.D.

Go and see!

 

Alice Bryant, Wordpress


After the success of their last production, Hamlet, Icarus Theatre Collective presents a refreshingly traditional production of Shakespeare’s ultimate tragedy – Macbeth. There are no spectacular special effects, or striking costumes, and props are limited and basic. A full, white moon gazes ominously over the darkness of the stage. Something wicked this way comes…

With a cast of only seven actors, swift character transformations were necessary in order to keep the plot running. A cackling, demented figure of a witch throws off her russet cloak and transforms into a Scottish thane; the comic figure of the porter, babbling drunk, later becomes the ghost of Banquo. Caked in blood, with a fixed, demonic stare, the difference between the characters is both striking and disorientating.

The wyrd sisters present the greatest performance in the play. Their movements are alien and animalistic; unpredictable and macabre, they choke out hair-raising screeches and guttural barks at every given opportunity. Sophie Brooke simultaneously plays the part of Lady Macbeth as well as one of the wyrd sisters, and elements of both characters can be seen as being inextricably entwined in her portrayal of the blood thirsty queen. Her large eyes stare fixedly out into the audience, her fingers curl into fists and her voice occasionally leaps into hysteria. Lady Macbeth is just as sinister and unstable as her ghoulish counterpart.

In turn, the audience’s eyes occasionally become drawn to the moon as it is symbolically covered in blood, or eclipsed, or blood red with fire. The wooden set of the stage is ignited by streaks of blood that light up at key intervals, and the thunderous boom of the sound effects adds effect to the most chilling of scenes. However, on occasion the sound effects are either lacking or have a tendency to be slightly too loud and shrill; at one point the sound of a baby being murdered led me to wince a little, and not just for the obvious reasons.

If you’re fed up with endless modern productions of Shakespeare that bear no resemblance to the original, then the Icarus Theatre Collective are certain to satisfy. At 80 minutes, the play isn’t ruined by leg thrombosis (of the audience, that is), and provides a well-staged, fast paced theatre experience.

 

Gerald Berkowitz, The Stage


Except for some minor cutting – the largest loss is Malcolm's self-slander in the England scene – and the slight rearranging needed to fit the Scottish play to a cast of seven, this production from Icarus Theatre is a simple, direct and almost textbook interpretation.

The youth and limited experience of much of the cast is too evident, however, in a general tendency toward either empty recitation or forced Grand Acting, Joel Gorf's Macbeth alone in being able to find a natural balance.

Though prone to William Shatner-style pauses and odd phrasing, Gorf does make both soliloquies and dialogue sound like spontaneous thoughts, and thus brings us into the character and along on his dark emotional journey.

Sophie Brooke's Lady Macbeth, somewhat too shrill and near-hysterical from the start, effectively conveys the sexual energy and power of the character, and Matthew Bloxham is quietly effective as both Banquo and the Porter.

The extensive doubling, frequently requiring onstage costume changes, has the haunting atmospheric effect of making the witches seem constantly present, and if a long run allows the actors to relax into more natural playing, this should prove a thoroughly accessible if never particularly original production.

 

Emily Buxton, About My Area


William Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed in intimate theatres with a small cast and limited scenery.  Four hundred years on theatre companies such as Icarus, who last night performed at the King's Theatre, are staying true to this tradition and in my opinion are all the better for it.

Originally written in 1606, Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, is a dark tale of regicide, betrayal and witchcraft.  Urged by his wife and supernatural prophecies, Macbeth commits murder in order to become King.  Further acts of murder occur and Macbeth and his wife are plunged into madness as they try to safeguard their new found power.

With only a small amount of scenery and props, it can often be difficult for a believable atmosphere to be created.  However, atmospheric depth is brought to Max Lewendel's production through the highly effective use of red lightening scars in the scenery and images, such as a raven which becomes covered by blood mirroring Macbeth's descent into darkness. The dark lighting throughout creates a chill in the air and maintains the tension as Macbeth reaches its bloody conclusion. 

Joel Gorf gives a charismatic performance as Macbeth throughout all aspects of the complex character, yet it is his terrifying portrayal of the frightened Macbeth, upon seeing Banquo's ghost, that wins the audience over. Whilst Sophie Brooke is unconvincing as the strong and even heartless Lady Macbeth depicted at the beginning of the play, it is in the sleepwalking scene that she triumphs.  The portrayal of Lady Macbeth's torment is achingly haunting and although this is expressed through shouts and anguish, the speech remains audible and evocative to Sophie's credit.

The cast as a whole remained audible throughout and appeared to understand their speeches, which can often be a pitfall in many Shakespeare productions where cast members can often appear to just be reciting what is in their scripts. The small and talented cast performed their numerous characters with ease, with kudos to Matthew Bloxham, who was almost indistinguishable from character to character.

If I were to have one criticism, I did feel the play was slightly rushed through, with some of the major scenes, such as Macbeth's reaction to his wife's death, not being given enough emphasis.  On saying that, the cast gave an entertaining and unique portrayal of Macbeth, suitable for all theatre lovers, with or without previous knowledge of the play.

 

Robin Strapp, British Theatre Guide

Icarus Theatre Collective's Macbeth is an impressive fluid production that punctuates the play's themes of the supernatural, greed, power, ambition and murder with clarity and adroit direction by Max Lewendel.

Mayou Trikerioti's atmospheric set, consisting of grey monolithic pillars with projected images on the moon and shards of broken red light appearing as the intensity of the drama progresses, is striking and, together with Theo Holloway's dynamic pulsating soundscape, provides the perfect backdrop for this taut dramatic tragedy.

The play explodes into action with a high-powered fight sequence using real swords, axes and spears that superbly captured the intensity of battle (fights directed by Ronin Traynor).

Zachary Holton towers as the affable noble and majestic King Duncan who accepts Macbeth's hospitality little knowing what fate awaits him.

The three witches, clothed in brown cloaks, have predicted the destiny of Macbeth and Banquo as the calamitous inevitability of this tale unfolds.

Joel Gorf plays Macbeth with a sincerity, commitment and belief. All strong and powerful to begin with and then slowly driven to questioning and despair as his quest for his predicted kingship dissolves into tatters. His banquet scene, with a lavish red curtain cleverly providing the table, as he sees the ghost of Banquo, is filled with emotion and his apparent madness is imposing.

Ambitious Lady Macbeth, forcefully played by Sophie Brooke, provokes Macbeth to murder Duncan in a robust powerful scene and eventually descends into madness at the enormity of her dire deed and finally kills herself.

With a cast of only seven some doubling up is necessary and Mathew Bloxham is excellent as Banquo trying to bring some form of sense and reason to the witches' prophecy. As the Porter he brought a sharply observed element of comedy into this poignant scene.

Richard Hay's Malcolm was filled with innocence and sadness at the death of his father and Emma Carter is the blameless Lady Macduff who is butchered by Macbeth's henchmen.

Costa Chard's Macduff smouldered and festered with grief at the news of his family's slaughter before exploding into a violent quest for revenge against Macbeth in a bloodthirsty graphic and vivid ending.

This was a powerful and engrossing production that received enthusiastic applause from the audience and was richly deserved.

 

Elaine Swift, Word Alchemy

Household words* - what our language owes to Shakespeare

I went to see a production of Macbeth on Tuesday night by the Icarus Theatre Collective at The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford.

The staging was stark, dark and fabulous, and sitting there watching some excellent performances from the small cast of seven, I was reminded how much our language owes to Shakespeare.

 

G Allan, A Shakespeare Journey

Thank God for the Edinburgh Festival. Two weekends ago, We were in Edinburgh, it is only thirty minutes away by train. Having a day out at the festival is always a treat, The weather was fair witch was lucky. We watched a comedian at The Comedy Stand and tried to book tickets for a second one but were disappointed, he was sold out. We had lunch, then walked along George Street heading for the book festival at Shandwick Place. There are one or two venues on the way and we stopped of in one for a drink. Over a bottle of Becks I was reading one of the programs, from the venue we were in. There on the front cover was Macbeth. I'm sure my heart missed a beat. I had no idea it was on, my own fault, like everyone living in, or close to Edinburgh. We kind of take the festival for granted. I was really excited, thought this was going to be my first time seeing Macbeth on stage. I was to be disappointed. We had missed it by about two hours. It was on every day at one o'clock, so no problem then but I had made arrangements for Sunday and I was back to work on Monday. So it had to be the following weekend and I only had Saturday off, it was going to be tight. So all week I was looking forward to it.

I booked tickets on line and collected them at the festival box office, Saturday morning. We walked the length of Edinburgh and arrived in time for a beer then curtain up. The production was by The Icarus Collective www.icarustheatre.co.uk It was an absolute thrill. Their were seven members of the cast, which to be honest was sometimes a little confusion. It was all there though. The Weird Sisters, Ghosts, Daggers and murders. I'm not writing this blog as a critic, I don't suppose this production was perfect, all I know is I loved every second of it. I was mesmerised. Sophie Brooke as Lady Macbeth was outstanding, hope she becomes a big star. Matthew Bloxham as Banquo, Costa Chard as Macduff and Joel Gorf as Macbeth were all fantastic. Really the whole cast were magnificent. Special mention for Zachary Holton as Duncan. Like the rest of the cast he played multiple parts, he was also the stage manager and the lighting designer. He's been around a long time and his experience shone through, as Duncan he was immense. All the information I have used I got from the program. They are touring the rest of the UK with this production. If you get the chance, go see it.

This will not be the last time I visit The Scottish Play. I am waiting for The Illumination's production of Macbeth on DVD. With Sir Patrick Stewart, Most highly recommended by The Wonderful Dainty Ballerina. I can't wait.


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The Lesson by Eugène Ionesco

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The Lesson Eugène Ionesco

starstarstarstar or better
in 15 of 17 reviews

Out of all productions with a star rating in the last 3 years:

starstarstarstar or better
in 36 of 45 reviews

The Lesson Eugène Ionesco

"Max Lewendel's production succeeds by the strength of its acting and the steadily increasing tension."

Jeremy Kingston, The Times

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The Lesson Eugène Ionesco

"Directed so specifically that the beast of chaos that charges through Ionesco's work like his own rhinoceros is safely routed through the play."

Rebecca Banks, Ham & High

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The Lesson Eugène Ionesco

"A daring production by an energetic new company, the London-based Icarus Theatre Collective, it pulls no punches in its visceral pursuit of pure absurdism."

Daniel Lombard,
South Wales Argus

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The Lesson Eugène Ionesco

Premiul special al juriului
Special Jury Prize:
Cash prize from Romania

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Premiul pentru cea mai buna actrita ín rol principal
Best Actress in a Leading
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John Thaxter, What's On

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Von Magdalena Marek, Newsline

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"Particularly haunting is the piece because of the use of music and sounds, designed by Theo Holloway. The effect is outstanding".

Von Magdalena Marek, Newsline

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by William Shakespeare

"Max Lewendel's production is fast-paced and pulls the audience straight in... Outstanding".

Von Magdalena Marek, Newsline

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by William Shakespeare

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Robin Strapp, British Theatre Guide

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Philip Fisher,
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Eleanor Weber,
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