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Macbeth at Bolton Octagon

Published by: Caroline May on 27th Feb 2012 | View all blogs by Caroline May

Macbeth, Shakespeare’s study of ambition and evil, receives a thrilling revival at Bolton Octagon this spring.

Played in-the-round on a tiny stage, it’s a chamber production that gives us big close-ups on the characters and shows how claustrophobic and introspective their world is. 

Robert Cavanah’s intelligent, intellectual and strangely sympathetic Macbeth is a consummate politician.  Like a certain Scottish prime minister who finally came to power after years of plotting and treachery, the Thane of Glamis soon realises that his grip on the throne is tenuous and his position precarious.  By the end I was expecting him to throw telephones at his loyal lieutenant Siward and refer to the gore-steeped Lady Macbeth (Suzan Sylvester) as “that bloody woman”.

As well as finally achieving my dream of seeing a Macbeth with a Scottish accent (not an optional extra if you think about the language and rhythms of speech), I love the fact that the supernatural elements of Shakespeare’s spine-tingling horror story are taken at face value and not psychoanalysed away.  The production teems with ghosts, witches and spirits, and the leather-clad Weyard Sisters, apparently channelling Vivienne Westwood, emerge from a flame-belching grid in the floor which appears to be a direct route to hell.

The ensemble is packed with terrific actors.  Colin Connor and David MacCreedy are committed and truthful in a variety of different roles, and Russell Dixon gives a master-class in acting as the Porter.

Director David Thacker’s fast-paced production is both intimate and epic, played mainly on the tiny central space but sometimes expanding into dimensions beyond.  It’s utterly immersive, compelling from start to finish, and a wonderful reminder of how exciting theatre-in-the-round can be.  Andy Smith’s eerie sound design, Ciaran Bagnall’s stunning lighting and James Cotterill’s stark and effective set all contribute to the impact of the show - a creative team that is clearly greater than the sum of its parts.

I have never seen a better production of Macbeth.  All hail, David Thacker.

Macbeth is on at Bolton Octagon until Saturday 17 March 2012
Tickets: £9.50-£22.50
Performances Mon-Sat
Eves @ 7.30
Matinees: Fri 24 Feb, Sat 3 Mar @ 2pm
Schools’ Matinees: Tue 28 Feb, Thu 8, Thu 15 Mar @ 1.30pm; Tue 13 Mar @ 10.30am
Schools’ Play Day: Tue 6 Mar.
Box Office: 01204 520661



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