Ruth Alexander-Rubin, Simon Hedger and Liam Tobin in Macbeth at Liverpool Cathedral _180
THERE can be few more splendid settings for Shakespeare’s Macbeth than Liverpool Cathedral. Its Gothic vaults give this new production, the first ever in a Liverpool Shakespeare Festival, an epic feel.
Presented by the Lodestar Theatre Company, it looks quite splendid and there are some powerful performances.
But there is a problem. The cathedral has a notorious echo and it is one that this young company could not overcome.
The result was inaudible dialogue with just a few phrases drifting clearly through the booming sounds.
It was hard work just to hear what was being said, let alone make sense of it.
It was a shame because visually this was an arresting production with the cast dressed in quasi-Victorian gear and often appearing on steps high above the performance space.
It was all well lit and had some delightful touches, not the least of them being the appearance of Banquo’s ghost from under a table.
Against the odds, Simon Hedger made a strong and impressive Macbeth with Ruth Alexander-Rubin a striking and fearful Lady Macbeth.
Iain Ormsby-Knox, adding the comic relief as the porter, did the right thing by stepping from the stage and into the audience with some added comedy lines, his large girth adding some visual fun. More to the point, he could be heard.
Luckily, only the first half of the show is in the cathedral, the second half played out in the adjacent St James’s Gardens, complete with its gravestones and mausoleum providing a spooky touch to the drama.
Here the gardens were used to their full capacity with characters appearing high up on the garden walls or, in the case of the witches, holding their coven beneath arches.
With the dialogue now fully accessible, it was clear that the Lodestar Company, a Liverpool company utilising local talents, has some fine performers in its ranks.
Michael Neary particularly impressed in a variety of roles from a doctor to the nobleman Ross and Richard Kelly came into his own as the revenging Macduff. His cry of pain, beating against the mausoleum walls on having learned that his entire family had been slaughtered, was an especially impressive moment.
Director Max Rubin was able to rally his cast well both in the cathedral and gardens, the flow of action rarely stopping.
If he can only sort out that audibility problem in his first half, this will be a production to savour.