Macbeth The Lord Chamberlain's Men

Review: Macbeth by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men



Words: Imogen Willis

‘A drum, a drum, Macbeth doth come…’

Travelling between parks and gardens from North Yorkshire to Cornwall, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men are putting on quite the feat, journeying, setting up, performing, and packing down in one day. It is a fast-paced whirlwind of a tour, with a show that mirrors this. Performed in under two hours non-stop, the fortress set is a constant roundabout, as one actor leaves another enters; a happy king Duncan traded for a bloodied Macbeth. Despite the speed of the production, the storyline is very enjoyable and easy to follow. The drumming at the beginning sets the rhythm, and the cast keep to the tempo, rotating between multiple roles in such a seamless way that you are tricked into believing that there are many more than 7 actors.

Images: Macbeth performance at Gunnersbury Park.

At each performance the audience is nestled in a semicircle around the stage, with space for each person’s garden chair, picnic baskets and bottle of bubbly, plus plenty of room for social distancing between groups. At Gunnersbury Park we were prepared for a promised downpour, and with birds circling and ominous clouds overhead, a witches’ summoning could have been taking place. As dry ice started to swirl around the set, three men in ragged dresses banging on drums appeared, crooning the opening lines in eerie sing-song voices. A hush descended on the audience, and as the witches contemplated whether they might meet again ‘in thunder, lightning, or in rain’ it seemed very apt with the heavy skies above.

The rain fortunately held off, and the evening was full of the enjoyment of seeing a live performance again. Macbeth’s backdrop of war seems the perfect metaphor for the long and difficult battle of getting actors back on the stage. The entire cast has spent five months in their own bubble to ensure a Covid-free production, and this intense time together has paid off in a wonderful show, for cast and audience alike. Although it is an all-male production, the female characters were especially captivating. Lady Macbeth brought a power and presence to the stage, stepping into the skin of the manipulative wife and mentally unravelling queen magnificently.

For lovers of Shakespeare, and for those missing the energy of theatre, this is one not to be missed. Make sure to purchase a ticket soon for upcoming local performances at Chiswick House and Gardens or Morden Hall Park soon to avoid disappointment. The performances are open air, so as always with British summertime, prepare for all weather, be that deluge or heat wave. Sun cream and a sunhat would not go amiss on hot days – or a blanket and raincoat for colder weather. There is plenty of time before the show starts to roam the surrounding setting, and the cast and crew are very happy to answer any questions before and afterwards. Visit their website for more information.