“I dare do all that may become a man”
There’s something quite pleasing about the flourishing of a number of all-female Shakespeare productions around the place – the Donmar has Henry IV, Henry V is being tackled by Lazarus Theatre Company later this month and Tigz Theatre presented a wee run of the Scottish play which I caught at the London Welsh Centre. The more regularly they appear, (hopefully) the less fuss will be made about such things happening and we won’t have to endure any more torturous thought-pieces from Mark Lawson.
That said, it would also mean that there’s more opportunities to fail, as well as succeed, in the task. And I have to say that this production of Macbeth was closer to the former than the latter for me, a lack of purpose and clarity about what is was trying to say (notions of power and gender are unexplored, and the staging has little to say about the psychological motivation of Macbeth or Lady M as they chase the corrupting power of the crown) or do (hints of early 20th century fascism were striking but ultimately just clashed with the storytelling.
Neither Elizabeth Appleby’s Macbeth nor Rosalind Seal’s Lady Macbeth really give the kind of blistering force needed to power through the play and give us the reasoning about why they do what they do. It just feels that there’s so much that could be exploited in the depiction of their relationship yet nothing really fizzles between the two or captures the imagination. Likewise with the company in general, David Evans’ production takes little advantage of its special nature. Which is maybe half the battle, they should be free to be women playing men as men if they want, it’s just that in a world of imaginative Shakespearean companies, I daresay we’ve come to expect a little more.