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  • Chris ORourke


Macbeth. Image by Declan Brennan


Punching Above Its Weight

In William Shakespeare's play that dare not speak its name power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yet Mill Productions “Macbeth” is corrupted for lacking any real power. Like its inverted reveal at the beginning of the show, Mill Productions “Macbeth” tries hard to surprise. But closer scrutiny and its reveal is seen as unconvincing and oddly constructed. As is “Macbeth” at times. For if “Macbeth” delivers a serviceable production for Leaving Cert students, for everyone else it can leave a lot to be desired.

Visually ambitious, responsibility for many of its visual achievements lie with director Geoff O’Keeffe. A brooding, if restrictive, set design by Gerard Bourke proves promising (the aforementioned reveal aside), along with a valiant lighting design by Kris Mooney that undertakes most of the heavy lifting, working hard to create mood and atmosphere. But both are constantly undermined by what looks like a lifetime supply of dry ice endlessly smoking the stage, as if trying to compensate for, or conceal, the lack of mystery and depth which is simply not there. Something not even one of the ever present, Druidic male witches, looking like Fates, physically well-crafted if vocally distracting, can manufacture. Blinded by mist, it too often resembles background shots for a compilation video of Celtic music on YouTube.

With several cast members doubling and tripling up on roles, performances prove to be an uneven lot, with some roles looking miscast, and with many fine actors looking uneasy. Responsibility, again, falling squarely on the director’s shoulders. Indeed, budget might have been better spent on expanding here than on an excess of dry ice. For the level of excavation required when dealing with Shakespeare means that even the most ambitious production can look rushed, recited, or inconsistent, all of which are in evidence here. Compounded by some basic errors. Duologues frequently place one cast member with their back directly facing the audience, and there’s hurried pace and poor projection throughout, particularly from Lady Macbeth. With chemistry and cohesion also thin on the ground, it soon makes huge demands of its hard working cast. Yet inconsistencies aside, Matthew O’Brien’s Malcolm, Jed Murray’s McDuff, Andrew Kenny’s Banquo, Ailbhe Crowley’s Ross, and a promising Eanna Hardwicke in several roles, all deliver some strong moments. Neill Fleming as Macbeth, the most rounded and consistent for the most part, often looks like a sheriff racing ahead of a posse struggling to keep up with him. Which is a shame, for there are some shining moments where Fleming sinks us deeper into the play, as does Damien Devaney’s Porter and Seyton. Begging the question of what might have been had others been supported in keeping pace.

“Macbeth” delivers a serviceable production for the Leaving Cert that includes a valuable informative student guide. Yet “Macbeth” is also an opportunity missed. While many of its production values are admirably high, including Olga Criado Monleon’s costumes, too often it looks like it’s punching above its weight. Some of its punches land, but too many miss the mark, or fail to properly connect, for not having sufficient power behind them.

“Macbeth” by Mill Productions runs at dlr Mill Theatre until October 26

For more information, visit dlr Mill Theatre.

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