Review: Macbeth (SheShakespeare / PACT)

Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), Aug 29 – Sep 8, 2018
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Shelley Casey
Cast: Megan Bennetts, Isobel Dickson, Rizcel Gagawanan, Joy Gray, Daniela Haddad, Prudence Holloway, Sonya Kerr, Emma Louise, Erica Lovell, Cassady Maddox, Suz Mawer, Emily McKnight, Beth McMullen, Lana Morgan, Grace Naoum
Images by Isobel Markus-Dunworth

Theatre review
If everything happens for a reason, then Malcolm must feel it the strangest twist of fate with this leadership challenge, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Although instigated by others, Malcolm is ultimately the one who undergoes complete transformation, by that story’s bloody end. This production features an all-female cast, but more notably, all its characters are now women. What seems to be minute alterations to Shakespeare’s words, turn his writing much more palatable, although some feminists would still prefer to see the time and energy of this passionate stable of talents, applied to projects more relevant to our times.

Director Shelley Casey proves herself an accomplished storyteller, carving out distinct characters and quick, engaging scenes for her captive crowd. Her style however is slightly too conventional, for a play in desperate need of reinvention, having been presented much too often in faithful renditions. Kyle Rowling’s work as fight choreographer is, on the other hand, truly noteworthy, in various sequences that give the show’s action quotient, an unexpectedly entertaining boost.

Leading lady Beth McMullen is a slight presence, who lacks the majesty we have come to expect of the role, but her intensity and unrelenting conviction, are admirable. It is a big cast of fifteen performers, of varying abilities, that impress with their unmistakable sense of cohesion. Gracie Naoum is a standout as Malcolm, bringing nuance to a staging that enjoys placing emphasis on its more raucous qualities. Also memorable is Rizcel Gagawanan’s interpretation of the Porter, mischievous and confident, for a theatrical moment audiences will find humorously endearing.

To “bring forth women-children only” is a futile wish, but when we look at the politics of this country (and many others), there is abundant evidence that the male of our species cannot help but create dissension wherever traditional power structures are in place. It might be naive to think that women would operate differently under those configurations of authority, but to address gender equality at all our offices and boards, is the first realistic step towards a more radical modification, of how we can better run the business of society. Whether we think of women and men as being essentially different, it is vital that all the divisions we do impose on our lives, are justly managed. All the old familiar violations, must no longer be tolerated.