Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Feb 25 – Apr 2, 2023
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Peter Evans
Cast: Rebecca Attanassio, Julia Billington, Isabel Burton, Jeremi Campese, Eleni Cassimatis, James Lugton, Kyle Morrison, Hazem Shammas, Jessica Tovey, Jacob Warner
Images by Brett Boardman
The most timeless element about Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is perhaps its meditations on ambition and guilt. Centuries on, men continue to be ruthless, as they claw their way to the top, but it is not often that we see any evidence of remorse thereafter. The play is concerned with the human conscience, but it is revelatory that most of how its characters experience regret, can only take place in supernatural realms; an indication that much as we wish for the rich and powerful to admit wrongdoing and make amends, it is but a fantasy in our individual and collective minds.
Under Peter Evans’ direction, the production certainly bears a dreamlike quality, inspired by the subconscious goings on, that are mercilessly unleashed throughout the narrative. Designed by Anna Tregloan, the monochromatic space looks to be Twin Peaks meets Art Deco, complete with heavy drapes and patterned floor, sumptuous but nightmarish, in its evocation of the World War I period. Lights by Damien Cooper add to the luxuriant visual style, whilst rumbling music by Max Lyandvert, although not short of tension, is at times strangely hesitant in getting involved, with the drama’s unbridled extravagance.
Actor Hazem Shammas is extraordinary in conveying operatic scales of emotions, in a deeply compelling treatment of the titular role. Shammas’ intensity seems to know no bounds, with an uncanny ability to externalise the dire psychological trauma being investigated, for a performance memorable for its fascinating physicality. Jessica Tovey’s approach for Lady Macbeth is considered, but sanitised, with an unusual degree of restraint applied, to one of the most outrageously imagined women in the Western literary canon.
When Macbeth receives his just desserts at the bitter end, it is both a result of his own unravelling, and of Macduff’s need to seek revenge. Our desire for good to triumph over evil, is repeatedly evidenced in the art that we make. Art provides opportunities for catharsis, when real life fails to deliver what our instincts know to be true and just. In a world that insist on rewarding those who act nefariously, it is only in our storytelling that we can find, the most perfect of resolutions.