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Macbeth – Wirral

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Royden Park, Frankby

22–27 June 2009

“By the pricking of my thumbs” to paraphrase the great Bard, “something exceptional this way comes”.

For all those involved in this production of “The Scottish Play”, there must be a tremendous sense of achievement, as The Hillbark Players have managed to pull off something that can rank with a great many larger companies with style and aplomb, aided and abetted by the natural surroundings and aura of one of Wirral’s finest public areas.

The costumes are superbly authentic right down to the silver beads on the handles of the dirks and broaches holding together the kilts. The stage set, though simple, is highly effective thanks to some wonderful use of pyrotechnics – with the highlight being and ingenious employment of such during the “cauldron” scene – and the acting is, for the most part, from an incredibly large cast, exemplary.

Another important fact is that despite the cast declining to use microphones, not a single word is lost to the audience as is the case in so many outdoor productions, and this should act as a template for many a larger company who attempt to take Shakespeare al fresco in future.

Stand out performances, as might be expected, come from those in the guise of Mr and Mrs Mac, here performed by Charles Riley, who manages scowling rage, duplicitous nice guy and tormented agony brilliantly, and Pauline Garland who’s every mannerism is etched deep with the self-serving cold-heartedness demanded of her character and who’s delivery is faultless.

Yet it is not only these but those who surround them that shine. Simon Garland as Banquo is quite superb in the role, giving the character a slightly confused edge and a steely determination that blend well into his ultimate demise and “rebirth”. Of all the Witches, Rebekah Tolcher holds sway amongst those on show, demanding that people listen to her and almost directing those other Wyrd sisters on show.

Lucy Clement is incredibly powerful as Lady Macduff. Even though her time on stage is brief, she nonetheless leaves an indelible sadness with the audience at her cruel demise, whereas Martin Riley’s Macduff grows into being as bold and forthright as he should be.

Yet of all these, the real plaudits must go to Alistair Thew who’s timing, energy and delivery as Young Siward mark him out as one to watch.

In short, The Hillbark Players 2009 production of Macbeth is an absolute joy and I urge you to see it for yourselves.

- by Chris High


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