by Lynn on August 5, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Old Mill, Toronto. Written by William Shakespeare. Directed by Kevin Hammond. Set by Andrea Mittler. Costumes by Nina Okens. Musc/arrangements by Hugh Barnett, Rocco Castrucci. Starring: Kanika Ambrose, Steve Coombes, Shannon Currie, Eli Ham, Sara Moyle, Neil Silcox, David Sklar.

Produced by the Humber River Shakespeare Company.

The Humber River Shakespeare Company has been producing Shakespeare plays for five summers in communities along the Humber River. They usually make a stop at the Old Mill Inn and produce the plays outside in the Inn’s Wedding Garden. This year’s offering is MACBETH. Rain prevented the play being done outdoors. So with this company’s usual pluck and imagination, they moved everything in doors at the last minute. The result is a fresh, fast and stirring production of one of Shakespeare’s more challenging plays.

Kevin Hammond, as both Artistic Director of the company and director of the production, has added more challenges. Since he does not have a large company to fill out the various armies and soldiers who populate this play, Hammond has still created the world of the play with six actors playing multiple parts. Often women play men and we don’t blink an eye. Suspension of disbelief is in order and the audience does its bit.

MACBETH is of course Shakespeare’s gripping story of blind ambition, murder, witchery and mental manipulation. On his return home from a victorious and bloody battle, Macbeth and Banquo, a fellow soldier, meet three witches who prophecy that Macbeth will rise up the ladder of success and Banquo will be the father of kings. Not content to wait for his good fortune to begin, Macbeth, with the help of his equally ambitious wife, plot to kill people in his way.

Director Kevin Hammond has directed the production with economy and invention. Macbeth has ordered the death of Banquo and his young son. The killers bungle the job. They kill Banquo but the son escapes. At the same time Macbeth is hosting a banquet for his guests when he is terrified to see the bloody body of Banquo appearing in front of him, looking accusingly at him. We also see the apparition. No one else sees the apparition. Macbeth reacts with fear. His wife is concerned and so are the guests. The apparition disappears but returns a few minutes later. This freaks Macbeth out again and unsettles everybody. Intermission.

After intermission the banquet scene is repeated only this time there is no bloody apparition at all but the scene is played exactly as if Macbeth seems the bloody ghost of Banquo thus solidifying the notion that Macbeth is unhinged in his bloodthirstiness and desperation for power.

Hammond is also creative in his use of music. A beautiful choral section began the play and then went into the scene with the three witches setting their seen of how there are going to mess with the head of Macbeth.

As Macbeth, Eli Ham is strapping and compelling. And he’s beautifully matched by Shannon Currie as Lady Macbeth (among other roles). She is fierce in her pushing him to do more and be bold about it. I never feel that Macbeth is ‘full of the milk of human kindness” but perhaps next to Currie’s fierceness, perhaps she’s right.

The cast is composed of both professional actors and semi-professionals. But they all work to produce a solid production that brings out the complexity and drama of this unsettling play.

As I saw this at the end of the run, I still wanted to give them a shout out. The company does other work through the year and is worth keeping track of.

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