Salamander Theatre launches its new season, complete with a new artistic director, with a presentation of their adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which is now touring high schools.
Should you see it?
Have you ever wanted something so badly, you’d do anything to get it?
That was one of the questions posed by Kate Smith (Salamander Theatre’s new Artistic Director) as she addressed the audience before the play, which also served as the Salamander Theatre For Young Audiences’ season launch. It was a question she had overheard being posed from teacher to student at a primer to the show when Salamander was performing to their core audience touring high schools. And it’s a question that frames the set-up for the play.
Macbeth opens with the titular character encountering three witches who prophesize that Macbeth will become king. When the first conditions of the prophecy come true and it seems like this could be a reality, Macbeth, urged on by his wife, takes steps to make it happen. Namely assassinating King Duncan in his sleep. This sets Macbeth on the slippery slope of having to get his hands dirtier and dirtier — and getting more comfortable doing it — to hold on to his reign.
It’s a moral tale about the costs of pursuing and holding on to power.
Unfortunately, in Salamander’s adaptation, there’s a lot left unsaid and a lot of blanks that weren’t filled in. The reason for this is that what’s usually a two-hour show was condensed down to a one-hour run time. That meant some things were bound to be left out, I just wish it hadn’t been what felt like key motivations for main characters. I never really felt Macbeth needed much convincing from Lady Macbeth to kill King Duncan. I didn’t know why everybody was so quick to flee to Britain. And I still don’t know why or how Lady Macbeth died.
At the end of the show, I heard a couple of audience members say that this show was for people who already know Macbeth and I find it hard to disagree. I would call it Macbeth’s highlight reel. Or maybe the compilation album of Macbeth’s greatest hits.
That said, there’s a lot to love about this show.
The three person cast is strong. Macbeth’s boots are filled by Brad Long and while I thought a lot of his meat and motivations were stripped away, I still enjoyed his performance and I’d be happy to see him in a full version. With him in Macbeth’s boots for the duration, that left Katie Bunting and Zach Counsil doing the heavy lifting as every other character in the play.
Zach Counsil is a proper chameleon, jumping between characters with ease and keeping them all distinct while Katie Bunting is also commendable and has an awesome-fun stint playing all three witches at the same time.
The staging of the play – directed by Catriona Leger – is top notch and effective. (One of Salamander’s challenges in doing the school circuit is being ready to fit any space they perform in.) Also, there’s most excellent sword fighting.
And I do think the strengths outweigh the weaknesses here. You’ll definitely benefit from knowing the story going in, but it’s an enjoyable time regardless.
What did you think? How did this rate as an adaptation? What did you think of Brad Long’s Macbeth? Join the discussion in the comments below.