18th February 2001

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Macbeth explodes

The Volcano Theatre Company arrives in Colombo this week to perform their critically- acclaimed Macbeth: Director's Cut. Starring Paul Davies and Fern Smith as the Macbeths, the production sponsored by the British Council is directed by Nigel Charnock with lighting and design by Andrew Jones.

The Volcano Theatre Company, as one of UK's foremost exponents of physical theatre, has gained a formidable reputation for the creation of inventive and challenging productions presented in a highly choreographed and visually rich style. This, Volcano's fourth collaboration with Nigel Charnock (director of the company's award-winning productions of L.O.V.E. and How to Live), is a violent and disturbing interpretation of Macbeth, informed by the terrors that impinge on our daily lives. Drawing on the recent case of British serial killers Fred and Rose West, and focusing on the primitiveness that is central to the play, the company seeks to explore the banality of evil. In true Volcano style this production represents an assault on the senses; an orgy of erotic and violent imagery through video projection and a musical soundscape ranging from the lyrical to the apocalyptic.

Macbeth-Director's Cut is a two-hander with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth playing many additionally roles. This show is not recommended for those under 15.

Writing in the Guardian, one reviewer describe the play as 'Gripping, physical, imagistic but also textually alert... it brings one closer to the dark heart of the play than many more orthodox versions... performed with dauntless energy by Davies and Smith and persuasively suggests a timeless link between murder and marital passion.'

The poetic beauty and repellent horror of Shakespeare's nihilistic tragedy, Macbeth, are central to this production of erotic and claustrophobic intensity. A reflection and parody of the surreal theatre staged within the fragmented and disintegrating minds of the killers as they descend further into the slaughterhouse of their own madness. "Blood will have blood" in this requiem duet for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as they seek absolution for their fractured souls.

Macbeth: Director's Cut goes on the boards on Tuesday February 20 at Trinity College Hall, Kandy and on Friday, February 23, and Saturday, February 24 at 7.30 p.m. at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo.

Power of Greek tragedy with no gimmicks

Greek tragedy was pre- sented by S. Thomas College, 105 years ago when English was the medium of instruction. In the mid '60s an adult and talented group of amateurs successfully produced Oedipus Rex at King George's Hall at the University.

In the light of such history of classical theatre one wondered how the present generation of schoolboys would handle Sophocles. Making due allowance for the young actors' voices that lacked resonance, director Vinodh Senadeera gave us a great theatrical experience.

It poured sheets of rain on the 26th & 27th evenings but miraculously cleared up for the 8 p.m. opening under clear skies. The Gods were certainly with the Thomians.

In this review it would be presumptuous of me to try and analyse or comment on the content of a classic written by Sophocles. My comments will centre on the production.

A Greek plebian selling programmes and flaming torches outlining the quadrangle set the tone for the drama. The play would unfold in the "amphitheatric" - steps, basically extended rectangles, rising to the entrance of the Chapel. Here indeed was a perfect setting for Greek drama. Vinodh used the wide space in and around the "stage" to full advantage, weaving his Chorus in neatly choreographed movements along the drive and sides of the Chapel.

At no stage did the Director resort to gimmicks and cinema effects, which in some stage plays have become an 'end' rather than a means to an end. A brazier in which incense is tossed provides smoke (imagine that against a smoke machine hissing and emanating an unrealistic shaped cloud).

Though one could not name an outstanding actor it was of little consequence as the concentration and teamwork in acting had the audience in pin-drop silence. However mention must be made of the clarity of voice and mobility of facial expressions of Niran Anketell playing Creon and Jithendra Seneviratne's Chorus Leader. The striking of an occasional pose by the former however would have been more suited to stylized drama.

Indubitably Oedipus presented the biggest challenge to an actor. Rajindh Perera in his portrayal initially had to be a powerful, infallible, wise and resourceful man of peace. In this he did not quite impress; but he came into his own as he ranged through the emotions of Oedipus as he became anxious, angry with doubt, incredulous, struck by horror and finally a broken, lost human being.

As I set off from home that evening I wondered how the lighting was going to be done. Mounting spots and floods on pylons was Vinodh's brilliant idea and yet so simple a solution. The costumes looked absolutely authentic and old boy Jayampath Ranasinghe who designed and draped them deserves a huge bouquet. The make up for STC productions has always been impressive and their ability to make boys look girls 'awesome' (if I may be permitted to use a word hackneyed by Grammy Award winners).

By Andrew David
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