Review: Macbeth (Shakespeare in Action)

Shakespeare in Action was formed in 1988 to bring Shakespeare to young people across Ontario. Hopefully young people recognize them for the gift that they are. Today I saw their production of Macbeth and enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed their production of Romeo and Juliet earlier this year.

Most of us know the basic story of Macbeth. Scottish lord hears a prophecy from three witches and – with the help of his wife – turns into a murderous dictator and is finally killed by Macduff. Today I realized that it’s the story of a man who is trapped by his bad decisions and can’t see a way out.

Macbeth calls for a large cast – 29 characters in this production.  Played by 9 actors. Very impressive. Even more impressive when you find out that they are mounting Romeo and Juliet at the same time and that the cast all have parts in that as well. All those lines to learn.

This is a very physical production.  The fights are amazing.  I found myself holding my breath, worried that someone would be a fraction of a second off and get hurt.

The energy is high. The characters move quickly, entrances and exits are made running, characters leap from the stage. The audience yesterday was made up of high school students.  I think it would be difficult to hold their attention but the cast managed to do it. There were a couple of collective gasps during the fight scenes.

When I’ve thought about the witches in Macbeth (not that often really) I’ve always pictured then as crones in black gowns and pointed hats. Not these witches. For a lot of their time on stage they looked like a mythical creature with 6 arms and three heads. It was hard to tell where one witch ended and the next one began. The lighting made them seem even eerier. Easy to understand why Macbeth believed them.

The production is all about the actors. The set is minimal, almost a bare stage. I think there was a table at one point but maybe I imagined that.  It’s the kind of production that leaves room for imagination. The lighting provides the atmosphere very effectively. A lot of the play takes part at night and even though the stage is fairly dark we can still see what’s happening.

I might be starting to understand why Shakespeare is considered such a master. Thank you Shakespeare in Action.

Shakespeare in Action will be remounting this production of Macbeth again in April if you can’t see it now. I noticed that a lot of the shows are sold out.


Macbeth is playing at Central Commerce Collegiate (570 Shaw Street) until November 25th
– Shows are: Nov 16 @ 1:30pm, Nov 17 @ 10:00am, Nov 18 @ 1:30pm, Nov 19 @ 8:00pm, Nov 21 @ 10:00am, Nov 22 @ 1:30pm, Nov 23 @ 10:00am, Nov 24 @ 1:30pm, Nov 25 @ 10:00am
– Tickets are $15.00
– Tickets are available by phone at 416 703 4881