You have to admire anyone who decides to take on Shakespeare with only two actors.
Volcano Theatre’s production of Macbeth is not defined by time or place. Director Paul Davies avoids the temptation to draw parallels with a contemporary military setting and says he wants “to prioritise the performance; the politics, the poetry and their relationship.” The stage was compelling and evocative with mannequins dangling from rope, monochrome blocks and a mini stove at the front, sizzling garlic.
The show begins with dynamism as the characters engage in an intense, interpretive movement piece which highlights the elements of control and puppetry within the Macbeth relationship. The actors then awkwardly break character and the fourth wall to address the audience with a lecture on time and destiny. At first this was a little basic, but as the play progress, these moments outside of the play allow for thoughtful meditation on our own feelings towards the text and how the themes relate to our own lives.
Often the scenes would move so quickly there would be little time to emotionally engage and sympathise with the characters and at other points, playful and curious imagery would create a new insight into the realms of this marriage.
A particular highlight was Lady M’s ‘Out damn spot’ speech, which both actors performed collectively. Lady M spoke the monologue with her arms tucked behind her back and Macbeth’s arms replaced them. This perfectly captured both the beauty and struggle of the characters engaging with the world as one entity -despite being two individuals.
One central and indispensable theme that Davies chose to highlight was children. The question of Macbeth’s children has been debated academically for years but in Davies’ interpretation there are two. These were represented by dolls, which Lady M gave voices to and moved them around in the same way a young child does. This seemed both an act of fantasy but also more important one of boredom; an element of Lady Macbeth’s life that is under-explored in many interpretations.
Zoe Mills as Lady M gave a mature performance throughout. Esmonde Cole (Macbeth) on the other hand was simple and straightforward. It felt like sometimes he didn’t understand the meaning of his own words, which of course, for Shakespeare, is criminal.
Image credit: Volcano Theatre, Enable US Project