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A Magazine for Sheffield

Macbeth: 10th September at the Crucible

The Crucible's Artistic Director, Daniel Evans, closes the theatre's 40th anniversary season this month by stepping into the director's shoes for Shakespeare's famous Scottish tragedy, Macbeth. The play is one of my all-time favourites and after seeing fine versions of first Hamlet and then Othello since the theatre reopened, I had high hopes that never came close to being dashed. This is a version of Macbeth that is a privilege to watch from start to finish. For the first time in over ten years coming to this magnificent theatre, the Crucible's stage took on a full 360 degree approach. Stalls had been placed at the back of the arena and the play was performed to all sections of a near capacity crowd. Macbeth is a brutal and bloody play and Evans and his team pulled out all the stops to create an atmosphere that was tense and claustrophobic throughout. Over the years, lighting and sound effects have become key factors in productions like this, but rarely have they been used with such skill. Lightning struck, thunder roared, smoke oozed from the floor, and in one memorable scene the stage was transformed into a sea of deep, crimson blood. The appeal of Shakespeare after all these years is that these are plays that don't just demand to be read, but that demand to be performed. Sheffield has a fine theatre company and the performances in Macbeth were consistently superb. Claudie Blakley is a terrifying Lady Macbeth. She commands the stage with regal presence and the scenes with her and Geoffrey Streatfeild drip with menace and an underlying passion. Streatfeild himself is the pick of an impressive cast. His Macbeth initially seems weak and timed, but his transformation to killer and subsequent descent into madness is believable and haunting. The rest of the cast fill out the supporting roles with gusto and panache, but in the end this is a show that belongs to Evans. The play is paced expertly, which is rare in itself for a Shakespearean tragedy, but it is the constant, underlying threat of terror which Evans builds so well. Rarely (if ever) have I been so scared watching a play. This is a first-hand look at the dark minds and actions of killers, and Evans gets beneath the human psyche and exposes it for all the audience to see. Even in a production as fluent as this, one scene stood out. To give away too much would be ruining it for anyone lucky enough to catch this run, but the first act ends with the most brilliant unveiling of the ghost of Banquo. In just a few minutes, the play manages to be horrific, humorous and finally heart breaking. Macbeth is not always easy viewing, but this is a fantastically skin crawling version of one of Shakespeare's finest tragedies. Macbeth is bold, bloody and brilliant. Daniel Evans, the cast and everyone associated with this production deserve to take a large, handsome bow. Macbeth runs at The Crucible until 6th October. )

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