Friday, 18 January 2013


Royal Conservatoire, Glasgow
4 stars
The buckets of blood the Witches pour into a dustbin are the shape of
things to come at the opening of Ali de Souza’s unexpurgated take on
Shakespeare’s play of corrupted ambition. As the body-count gets
higher, the supernatural trio are there in the background at every
crucial moment, striking a pose like a goth dance troupe on Halloween.

This is all too fitting in a production performed by second year acting
students in a brick-bare Chandler Studio theatre. Such set-pieces
emphasise the play’s darkness, while keeping every scene intact
clarifies much of its meaning. Other moments are at times a tad too
over-loaded, such as the John Coltrane sound-tracked dinner party at
which Brian Vernel’s Macbeth loses the plot, but even here, Vernel,
Tarjei Westby as Banquo and Rebecca King as Lady Macbeth sustain a
steely intensity.

As Macduff and Duncan’s upper-crust son Malcolm plot out their
strategies on the king, the St George’s Cross flag pinned up on the
wall suggests that the reinstatement of colonial rule drives the battle
as much as revenge. Comic relief comes via a cheeky but neatly realised
gender-switch, when Meghan Tyler, who doubles up as the First Witch,
plays a particularly provocative Porter.

What really sets this production apart is the electric presence of
Vernel. Black shirted, squaddie-haired and flint-eyed with fury, his
Macbeth is a very young man seriously out of his depth, and whose new
power makes him increasingly psychotic. It’s a dangerously confident
turn, full of muscle, guts and contemporary swagger. If this is what
Vernel is capable of as a second year, the world should watch out,
there’s a storm coming your way.

The Herald, January 18th 2013


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