at Temple Church, London
‘The lighting’s good, isn’t it?’
I couldn’t wait to see this production. Two years ago I sat in the same church and was riveted by the same company’s Richard III. My fault - it could only be a let down in comparison. The same atmosphere welcomes us, though. It is exciting and different to be inside a church which is a theatrical venue. The same promenade stage, with audience down the two sides. To be so close to the action, to be part of it!
Sadly not. I spent the evening feeling I was being performed at.
Antic Disposition’s directors - Ben Horslen and John Riseboro - have set the play in Victorian times. The costumes give an air of patriarchal control and a squeezed sense of formality and restriction. Then Macbeth enters - completely the opposite - promising so much more! He prowls the stage, looking for answers, mumbling and growling like a caged bear.
Harry Anton plays the part. All rugged, macho and looking like he’s just stepped off the set of Poldark. Well, hello, Macbeth!! Ding Dong! But he’s dour and lacklustre. [Blast.] Lady Macbeth, however, played by Helen Millar, has a shining presence - a brilliant beacon of light in a dark production, even when dressed completely in black for the first half. Once she is Queen, she then dresses in the brightest of blood red. This is in itself a shock to the eyes, as all costumes are black or the darkest of greys and browns.
The use of the witches is clever. Throughout, they are also the house servants of the Macbeths - always on hand to assist or hinder as the play requires. Louise Templeton, Bryony Tebbutt and Robyn Holdaway excel by their underplaying and choreography, subtly manipulating the characters around them. The rest of the cast - Chris Courtenay, Nathan Hamilton, Robert Bradley, Peter Collis and Andrew Hislop - come across as ‘actors in a Shakespeare play’ - there is the usual shouting and finger pointing, seemingly placing emotion before meaning.
Overall, I found too many of the actors annoyingly hard to hear as they fought the acoustics. Much of the staging was, surprisingly, quite unimaginative and dull. Static and filmic. Monologues were done to no one in particular, even though the eager audience was sitting there, right in front of them. Macbeth’s solo musings were slow and monotone. Two-dimensional. But I want action, power and a crispness of performance - I want my Macbeth to be enigmatic, not contemplative.
I want the actors to take a risk and use the environment they find themselves in. Instead, they play this version inwardly and safe. I want danger, all I got was contemplation. No doubt, as the run settles into the space, the pace will pick up, the actors will relax and the drama will increase. I realise I come across as grumpy and, excepting Max Bialystock, no one ever sets out to do a bad stage production, but Shakespeare is so often performed and comparisons abound. And everyone has an opinion. One gent in the queue for the interval toilets could genuinely only muster, ‘The lighting’s good, isn’t it?’
Photographer Scott Rylander
Directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero
Producer Antic Disposition
Designer John Risebero
Composer James Burrows
Performances Until 7th September - Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm
Matinees: Saturday at 3pm
Venue Temple Church, London EC4Y 7BB
Nearest Tubes Temple or Blackfriars (Circle and District lines)
Tickets Box Office 0333 666 3366 or online at
Price £25 - £40
Running Time 2 hours 15 (including an interval)