Theatre review: the beauty of this Macbeth is rarely more than skin deep

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Theatre at UBC presents a production of Macbeth that is technically sound and beautiful to watch but its players could benefit from a few more years from life.

I have often thought as I watched a child prodigy expertly playing the piano or violin that while I can admire their skill, I can’t get past the fact that there is a certain passion that seems to be missing, a passion of understanding and of experiences.  Similarly here I couldn’t help but think that perhaps in a couple of years these actor’s skills will be matched with a passion that comes simply from time.

Alexander Keurvorst & Christine Bortolin in the Theatre at UBC production of Macbeth. Photo by Tim Matheson.

As his MFA thesis, director Patrick New has chosen a traditional telling of Shakespeare’s macabre Scottish play, where blood is shed at almost every turn in Macbeth’s quest for the crown and his ongoing struggles to keep it.  In choosing this traditional approach, the story can sometimes be at odds with any contemporary feel the actors are unable to abandon.  It is a subtle feel but nonetheless one that prevented me from being fully immersed inside the world being created on stage.

Where this production finds its greatest strength is in some of the design choices with a beginning and end that include some of the best stage images I have seen in a long time.  Costume designer Vanessa Imeson brings an incredibly luscious tapestry of tartans, furs and embellishments that would make any professional designer swoon with envy and has helped prove that any man can look good in a dress.  Lighting designer Jonathan Tsang and his team have created the perfect moody (and brooding) feel of New’s vision.  The inclusion of live bagpipe music adds a wonderful air of authenticity and the movement and fight choreography, from Catriona Leger and Nichkolas Harrison respectively, helped create some startling and beautiful images.  Jill Wayness’ make-up for the Witches and hairstyles for the men were simply inspired.

This was a visual Macbeth, a Macbeth of style and beauty.  I look forward to the day when the beauty is more than skin deep.

3 Out of 5 Stars Macbeth

By William Shakespeare.  Directed by Patrick New.  A Theatre at UBC production.  On stage at the Frederic Wood Theatre through March 31, 2012.  Visit for tickets and information.

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