Review: Macbeth (Hart House)

As most of us have read Shakespeare in high school there are generally no surprises in plot with modern day performances. The real magic with Shakespeare is how it’s recreated. This is especially the case since we don’t speak English the same way he did at that time; the more a performance can help us connect with the story, the better.

While sitting at the Hart House Theatre, waiting for Macbeth to begin, I started skimming the program, and came across the Director’s notes. The following words caught my eye: “Harold Bloom suggests that we are able to relate to Macbeth on a level unmatched by any other Shakespearean hero. At first that seems unlikely since most of us aren’t so murderously ambitious, and yet we have all, at some point, made choices that we would describe as going against our nature.”

This performance truly drove that point home for me. Macbeth starts out as an inherently good but flawed character, and this show really did an incredible job of showing his descent from a valiant soldier into a manipulative dictator. It can in fact mirror our own regrets.

The performance had incredible energy and passion – and I think this is what helped bring the script to life. In fact, I have an urge to go and re-read Macbeth, as it is much better than I remember it.

Arguably one of Shakespeare’s most distinct characteristics and strengths is his poetic dialogue. The cast really held the rhythm of his words, which kept the momentum of the show going, without allowing it to feel too robotic. They moved with the dialogue as well, which at times made it almost dance-like.

In addition to this, they used lighting and sound (especially music) to enhance their rendition of this story. It added an incredible amount of drama and suspense, making the experience almost akin to watching a thriller.

My show partner enjoyed these as well, noting that the extra effects were just enough – they didn’t overpower the performance. Macbeth the story came first, to help the audience connect with the performance.

The most interesting point to note here is that they didn’t use any incredibly sophisticated technology to create these effects – they were relatively simple, but choreographed so perfectly, that it felt like we were in the story.

The only caution I would give you, if you’re planning to go see this show is that it is a bit violent. I didn’t remember how violent it was, but if you have little ones you may want to find a babysitter.

This is the second Shakespeare performance I’ve attended this year. The first: The Lawyer Show: As You Like It was quite an imaginative re-enactment  that updated the show in a truly unique way and didn’t really take away from the story. Macbeth was a more traditional interpretation of the script, but I would not say it was any less creative. Both shows helped me connect with these plays in ways that I never had before. I hope you go check it out.


Macbeth is playing at Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle) until November 26, 2011

– Shows Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm for the entire run, with an additional show on Saturday at 2pm during the last week

– Ticket are $25/$15 for students. Wednesday nights are $10 student nights.

– Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-978-8849