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Macbeth

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Show don’t tell. This is the mantra of dramatic presentation, whether it be film, theatre or television, and it is a principle followed in a recent production of Macbeth, staged by Keele Drama Society. Directors Hannah Evans and James Mason give the play a modern setting with the players in suits and ties, and present the eponymous anti-hero (Ahmed El Kady) as a senior politician ascending to the throne. Contemporary events in British politics give the production timely resonance, as Duncan (Callum Ilkiw) sports a blue rosette and tie that echoes with senior members of the Conservative Party. Crucially, though, the production does not labour (no pun intended) the point, allowing the audience to fill in what is implied. The witches (Chris King, Magda Boryń, Polly Harrison) are reporters and cleaning staff, their sudden appearances explained by their clearing meals and meeting the drunken Macbeth and Banquo (Conor Richardson) in the street. In a venue with no wings where any set must be brought on and off by stagehands, these crew members are smartly characterised within the drama, often appearing as servants and advisors to the central figures. Evans and Mason maintain action across the stage, adhering to the central conceit without over-explaining. When Macbeth soliloquises down stage, Banquo and Ross (Teri Duffy, outstanding) speak silently upstage; when Lady Macbeth (Beth McMahon) receives a message from her husband, it is relayed as a voicemail; at several points, Macbeth is left alone to brood on stage while the action continues around him. El Kady demonstrates great presence while being a generous enough performer to not overshadow his fellow performers, such as Lawrence Camm as Macduff who remains on stage during the run up to the play’s climax rather than going off and on again, before the two collide in a brilliantly choreographed and wince-inducing stage combat. McMahon is never less than mesmerising, tinging Lady Macbeth’s ambitious scheming with regret and doubt. Nowhere is this better displayed than in one of the play’s standout moments: the raid on the home of Macduff. Lady Macbeth herself warns Lady Macduff (Emily Manship) of approaching danger, and remains on stage when Macbeth himself enters and gets his hands dirtier than they already are. Lady Macbeth’s continued presence throughout this disturbing scene increases her guilt and culpability – small wonder the ‘damn spot’ will not ‘out’. It is testament to the production’s power that there is little sense of any idea being underdeveloped, which indicates great imagination and attention to detail. I have seen and participated in many productions of Macbeth, and this one is a superb demonstration of the innovation and creativity required for showing rather than telling.

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