An inventive new take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth stuns on the Toronto stage
Wolf Manor Theatre Collective’s Macbeth is an intelligent, heart-pounding 90 minute interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Director Claren Grosz’s brilliant use of double-, triple-, and even quadruple-casting draws out smart connections between characters, and her astonishing staging choices make their telling of the play lucid and fast-paced.
The appeal of Shakespeare’s Macbeth lies in three things: its explorations of fate, the excitement of bloody murder, and all of those famous soliloquies. Wolf Manor Theatre Collective’s production gives us fresh and exciting takes on all three of these things, which I think makes it well worth seeing.
The most interesting staging choice Grosz makes is to have the Weird Sisters – the three witches – on stage for the duration of the play. Most of the time they just watch the action as it unfolds, but they also take off their hoods to play most of the bit parts, making us question how much influence they actually have over Macbeth’s eventual downfall. It’s a nice visual metaphor for those of us who want to be challenged with the question of free will.
The witches also figure into the artful way that blood is incorporated onto the stage. Their cauldron is a metal bucket filled with stage blood that they smear onto the faces, necks, and hands of the other players. I found this staging both appropriately creepy and fascinating.
Add to that Kennedy Brooks’ beautiful white light flooding in from the wings for the dead walk into, and I got goosebumps from the devilish and otherworldly images of death.
Among the most memorable uses of the witches was their role as dinner guests in the scene with Banquo’s ghost. I found it entertaining to watch the three of them move from seat to seat as Banquo followed Macbeth around the table. Their constant movement added to the tension that comes out of Macbeth’s long speech in this scene (which was executed expertly by Dylan Brenton).
Perhaps the most exciting moment of the night was Lady Macbeth’s “out damned spot” speech and suicide. Nicole Hrgetic was riveting in her angsty portrayal of a woman unravelling, while the witches unraveled a spool of wool representing her life-line and chanted parts of her speech back to her in the background. Lady Macbeth being passed the scissors and cutting her own life line is one of the greatest dramatic images I’ve seen in my life.
The choice to incorporate drumming and clapping into the battle in Macbeth’s castle was also very effective for me. It made the play almost cinematic by underscoring the fast-paced action and bringing up my heart-rate. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was shocked by Macduff’s revelation just before Macbeth’s death because of the strength of the pause in the drumming.
Did I mention that all of this excitement happened in just 90 minutes? I don’t know who cut down the script, but that person is a damned good Shakespeare interpreter. You don’t see adaptations of Macbeth like the Wolf Manor Theatre Collective production every day, but boy do I wish that I could.
- Macbeth is playing until May 31 at The Alumnae Studio Theatre (70 Berkeley Street)
- Shows run Tuesday to Sunday at 8pm, with an additional matinee on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm
- Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students/seniors/arts workers and are available online.
Photo of Dylan Brenton and Nicole Hrgetic by Joseph Hammond.