On September 28th, I attended Bear and Co.’s production of Macbeth at the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa. Bear and Co. had done an outside performance of Macbeth during the month of July and successfully attracted a large audience. They performed at the Gladstone the nights of the 28th to the first of October with additional performances Thursday at 12:30 pm and Saturday at 2:30 pm. I bought a ticket for the first night and was excited to see my first play out of my high school drama class years ago.
The first thing I see when I walk into the Gladstone Theatre lobby is the bar. The second: cash only. Though I can’t buy any drinks since I only have my cards, I sit amongst the other playgoers, varying in age, style, and sizes. From what I see in the lobby, waiting for the play to begin, the audience is mostly ladies and gentlemen of a higher age set. Meaning they mostly have gray hair, spectacles and a glass of red wine.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I took my seat. This play is much shorter than the original was intended for, taking about 110 minutes. Do they keep the same plot? The Scottish general, Macbeth, receiving the title Thane of Cawdor and later taking the throne; both Macbeth and his lady plotting and killing the king and both being driven mad with guilt. I had read the play and memorized Macbeth’s dagger scene soliloquy so I was looking forward to seeing how they act it out.
When the lights dim and the actors and crew begin to sing, I can feel the audience’s anticipation. A spotlight flashes onto centre stage. Within the first ten minutes, I can tell it isn’t going to come near the original. It’s disappointing to find they have changed so much of the original wording and changed most of the scenes, others being taken out entirely, but I’m appeased with the performance itself for it is still entertaining.
In Shakespeare’s tragedy, the Queen’s Men had men dress and play the women’s parts, whereas this director, Eleanor Crowder, has women playing the men’s roles. Only a few character’s stay true to their gender. Although many females play male roles, it doesn’t take away from the storyline.
The play has seven actors, two men, and five women, some playing four or five roles. Zoe Georgaras plays Duncan, the main Witch and Seyton the Porter. Though there are sometimes small costume changes between the Witch and Duncan, she plays both parts with such different passion that the audience quickly understands who she’s playing from one second to the next. Her Seyton the Porter is well played and his lewd comments give the play some laughs and keep it from being too serious. Georgaras is also the fire choreographer, and she and the two other witches dance around the stage, doing their incantations, creating a magical atmosphere.
Chris Mcleod plays Macbeth in this rendition of the Scottish play and uses his experience in acting to play his role convincingly, for the most part. When the ghost of Banquo comes onto scene and Macbeth cowards in fear, I sit unmoved by his emotions for they seem forced and fail to draw me in. Mcleod is more convincing when his character is dazed, menacing, or even jubilant. I’m pleasantly surprised, though, that the fight choreography is good—not Hollywood but still good. I later read that Mcleod created and taught the fight choreography. Having the director use actors’ extra skills is clever on her part because it adds to the play in a way that helps keep our attention and keeps us entertained.
But I will say the night goes to actress Rachel Eugster who plays Banquo, Lady Macduff, and a Gentlewoman. Other than costume changes, her acting makes each of her characters very different and brings them to life. I’m amazed at how well she immerses herself into her roles. I read later that she is also the music director and responsible for the vocal ensembles dispersed throughout the play. Her vast experience in acting is easily noticed and admired.
In general, for the first play I’ve seen since high school, it was well done and entertaining. The director may have changed many things from Shakespeare’s Macbeth but it was still enjoyable to watch. The experience of all the actors is shown and displayed well in the short 110 minutes and the final scene is met with a loud round of applause.
Meaghan Côté is a second-year student at Algonquin College in the Professional Writing program. Other than spending time with her cat, Buffy, she enjoys reading (all the time, anytime, everywhere and anywhere), creating art, reading, drinking tea, more reading, and writing! She also enjoys cooking, although the results aren't always edible.