Something ‘wicked’ this way comes

Sudbury Dramatic Society present Macbeth

Macbeth Quay Theatre, Sudbury Until Saturday Box office: 01787 4745

THE universal themes that run through Shakespeare’s plays make them ripe for tinkering with setting, costume and script.

Macbeth’s dark tale of murder and vaulting ambition lends itself particularly to different treatments.

In the past 12 months, Sudbury has hosted former glamour girl Abi Titmuss as Lady M, in a production set in the world of Glasgow nightclubs and gangsters, and now Sudbury Dramatic Society bring Shakespeare’s tale to the stage in a version that is even braver.

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Directors Penny Mills and Gemma Leggett have imagined the Scottish play set in a non-specific country, populated by characters in Middle-Eastern dress.

Perhaps the most fascinating items on stage are nine red metal door frames, which are moved aorund on casters to create some well thought out and highly dramatic effects.

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They begin by framing the three witches as the initial prophecies are made, a smoke machine turned right up and clever lighting adding to the effect.

The “wierd sisters”, played in eerie harmony by Sian Notley, Jessica Millar and Sarah Byham, are impressive presences, their synchronised movements and chanting creating the right supernatural atmosphere before Macbeth enters.

Their reappearance after the interval is even more dramatically lit and clever make-up heightens their menace.

Traditionalists might argue with the witches’ doubling as the murderers of Banquo and Macduff’s family. It elevates the notion that they are yet more victims of the evil pervading the land, but Macbeth commands the murderers and their obedience to him grates against the fact that the witches are never in his control.

The tyrant is played with gusto by Mark Jenner, an angry presence, who makes a good job of falling apart in the face of the horror of his deed against Duncan, and later when confronted by the ghost of Banquo, but at times produces a real chill as the cold-blooded tyrant who so shocks his wife with his killing spree.

He is goaded to his deed by the excellent Annie Eddington, a stand-out performance as Lady Macbeth.

She urges him on with both sarcasm and gentleness but later transforms into a broken woman, looking on aghast as she realises that it is not just the king who has been murdered but sleep and her marriage as well.

David Knight puts in another polished performance on the local amateur circuit, following last year’s show-stopping Fagin at Nayland with a double of noble Duncan and the Porter. He didn’t garner as many laughs on opening night as he deserved for the latter.

The supporting cast of Malcolm Hollister, Paul Vella, Luke Hayes, Zak Wheeler, Sara Knight, Monica Murhpy, Richard Fawcett, Henry Benton, Brian Dawson, Anthea Halstead and Mark Littlewood, make the most of the imaginative set.

The time spent rehearsing movement, particularly the manipulation of the ‘doors’, shines through.

There are the odd false notes: for example, the “horror” felt in the immediate aftermath of the discovery of the king’s body is not communicated strongly enough.

But this is a well thought out, well performed and well directed production with some clever touches that would grace a bigger stage.

It is fast-paced and, most importantly, for Shakespeare, the lines are rendered, with very few exceptions, in a clear, understandable manner.

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