Anatomy of a breakdown

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Queen’s Vagabond’s Macbeth in the Vogt Studio doesn’t get lost in an overambitious production

The standout performances of the show came from James Gagné and Mary Collier playing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively.
The standout performances of the show came from James Gagné and Mary Collier playing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively.
Vagabond Theatre’s production of Macbeth brought forth all the classic elements of a Shakespearean stage show without getting lost in trying to modernize an old script.
Vagabond Theatre’s production of Macbeth brought forth all the classic elements of a Shakespearean stage show without getting lost in trying to modernize an old script.

Ambition can lead to the ruin of many, as suggested by the plot of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

But Vagabond Theatre’s production of the play doesn’t fall to the same fate.

While many Shakespearean plays become victim to a director’s excessive aspirations, this particular show depicted the production as it should be seen — simple, well-acted and appropriately dark.

The sinister tones presented in the play matched the production well, as the Vogt Studio was filled with the eerie sounds of the witches’ cackling and the ambient lighting dimmed during the soliloquies.

The lighting scheme meant that I couldn’t see the actors’ faces properly at times, but with the play’s dark tone in mind, the move made sense.

The cast is led by the memorable James Gagné as the noble but naive Macbeth and the perfectly calm and cold Mary Collier as his fantastically calculating wife. The cast’s chemistry stands out in the famous plotline — a blue-blooded Scottish couple falls prey to a golden opportunity, one that leads to their ultimate demise.

Movement was an important part of the play, from the choreographed fight scenes to the jarring way that Lady Macbeth falls to her knees in the midst of an emotional breakdown. The royal nobility of the play are static and unmoving in their postures, as opposed to the uncivilized witches who spur on much of the action with their wicked manoeuvres.

The witches crept while they cast spells, particularly in the opening scenes, all the while getting too close for comfort to other characters like Macbeth and Banquo.

The characters’ movements across the stage become more erratic as they spar relentlessly, like Macbeth and Macduff in their final battle, or tremble violently like Lady Macbeth in her final “out damned spot” scene.

While blocking is a strong point of the play, in some ways it’s one of its weak points.

Certain monologues began with an actor’s back to the audience, such as one of Macbeth’s final monologues. It’s a confusing move for a play that depends so much on spoken lines and facial expressions.

Gagné as Macbeth was played with more dignity than I’ve ever seen before, his stance unwavering and his speech clear and powerful, especially in the famous “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy. There’s still, however, an obvious portrayal of his hesitation and fear.

Lady Macbeth was one of the standout performances of the play.

She’s a character who is played like she’s always on the edge of something — be it methodical murder or dangerous mayhem. She shakes, eyes wide with ambition, while plotting the murder of King Duncan and the ominous lights accentuate her face as she shares her evil plan with the audience.

With a production like this, there’s always a risk that the show will get lost in translation. This isn’t the case with Vagabond Theatre’s Macbeth. With elements that are quintessentially Shakespearean, this show is a good introduction for anyone who has never seen the Bard on stage.

Queen’s Vagabond’s production of Macbeth runs in the Vogt Studio in Carruthers Hall until Sunday.

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