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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Macbeth

© Mark Fisher - published in Northings - Highlands & Islands Arts Journal

MACBETH (Mallaig and Morar Community Centre, 17 September 2008, and touring)
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POWER CORRUPTS and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But watching Alan Steele in the title role of Macbeth, you see power also does a few things in between.

First, it sends you off the rails. Not only do you see visions of your dead victims, but you start clutching neurotically at your robes, panicking at the presumption of your claim to the throne. Then, once it looks as if you're succeeding regardless of your insecurity, power goes to your head. You develop a messianic self-belief and think yourself infallible – after all, who ever heard of a walking wood or a man not born of woman? That's when power turns you into a fully fledged tyrant.

Steele marks these transitions clearly, letting us see that his violence is a front for his inner weakness. He might have had a reasonable claim to kingship had his honourable qualities not been undermined by his own moral decline. He lashes out because of fear not courage.

Interestingly in Alasdair McCrone's atmospheric production – a revival of the last ever show at Mull Little Theatre in 2006 – the power behind the throne is not only Beth Marshall's lucid Lady Macbeth, but also the mysterious forces of darkness embodied by Sarah Haworth. A lingering presence throughout the show, Haworth plays all three witches – thanks to the concealed mirrors of Alicia Hendrick's turret of a set – as well as various bit parts, until she lays Macbeth to rest in the final silent moments.

It gives her the status of puppet master – albeit a deranged one – dreaming this tragic parable into life. She is less a supernatural being than a shaman warning us of what can happen when a good man ventures into the dark side.

Performed beneath a fog of dry ice, the production makes a virtue of its small cast, not only in the efficient doubling of the six actors, but also in creating an air of no-nonsense directness. It's a real achievement to give such a full account of the play with so few actors and it is this, rather than any startling insights, that gives the production its distinctive energy.


© Mark Fisher, 2008

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