The Brasserie Restaurant in the Minerva Theatre opposite the Chichester Festival Theatre is incredibly efficient when it comes to serving food in time for their clients to get to their production on time. They are so efficient that sometimes your food arrives while you’re in the loo. Not that that’s a problem but if one wears a hat and leaves it in one’s place at the table one’s wife could be excused for thinking that she was one of Oliver Sach’s patients.
We were at the Brasserie because we were booked into the almost completely booked out matinee of Macbeth. The reason I’d dragged Mirinda to a Shakespeare production was because it had John Simm and Dervla Kirwan in the cast.
Before talking about the production, I think it only right that I review the restaurant.
Food, drink and service were all excellent. While the staff ran around making sure people were in and out in time, we didn’t feel rushed at all. They were also happy and smiling, which is always very pleasant.
I have to admit that we were a bit naughty and had dessert. While Mirinda had a ginger cake pudding, I decided on the cheese plate which featured the most amazing little fig loaf. I didn’t take a photo but imagine a Lilliputian loaf of bread with drizzled fig sauce on it. It was something quite special. Well worth the carbs.
After lunch we went for a wander around the theatre. The Festival Theatre is at one end of a series of playing fields. Because of the rugby that is presently taking over our televisions, there’s a sort of pop-up pub showing the games and generally serving beer to fans. One of those fans was outside proclaiming his allegiance to his preferred team.
And then, the play.
I am a great admirer of John Simm and his abilities as an actor. The second half of the play showed just how good he is. His portrayal of the corrupt and increasingly desperate Macbeth was excellent. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case in the first half.
I’m no Shakespearean scholar (obviously) but I do feel that, at the beginning of the play, Macbeth is an innocent and successful soldier who is easily led astray by his increasingly mad wife. His pleasure at being promoted should be tempered by her insistence that he could be so much more. He is complex while being simple. This is difficult to achieve but can be done. I wasn’t convinced this time.
On the other hand, I thought Dervla Kirwin was a superb Lady Macbeth. Her exhortations at the banquet were perfect. And her ‘out damn spot‘ mania was unforgettable. For me, she owned the stage every time she stepped onto it.
Speaking of the stage, the set was excellent; a glass floor with rocks beneath, a scrim at the back showing various back projections or ‘other’ scenes worked very well. And the cauldron scene was amazing.
Speaking of the cauldron, I was not impressed by the witches. While their movement was excellent, they resembled three mischievous fairies rather than old crones. I could be forgiven for thinking I’d stepped back into A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the fey folk around Titania. It was a pity because they are such an integral part of Macbeth’s slide into absolute corruption.
On the plus side, I thought Banquo (Stuart Laing) was excellent. His deep, resonant voice, his strong stature, his command all combined to make him a standout. I liked his ghost.
While I’m talking about voices, this was yet another production which relied heavily on amplification. John Simm had an obvious microphone which I found distracting and disappointing in equal measure. Such a shame when the theatre seems to be more than acoustically adequate. Mirinda wondered why actors aren’t trained to use their voices better and I couldn’t agree more. Project! I wanted to yell.
This was even more required when it came to Duncan the King. Maybe Christopher Ravenscroft was saving his voice for the evening performance because he was very hard to hear and, therefore, understand from where we sat. I do wonder what the director was thinking, allowing such slack vocal work. I’d be ashamed of myself.
All that sounds like it was shit but it wasn’t. I enjoyed most of it very much. Apart from Lady Macbeth, I thought Malcolm (Beatriz Romilly) was played well though the director really should tell Beatriz not to stand with her hands behind her back so often. Mirinda reckons this was because she was playing a male which is fair enough but very few of the males who were playing males did it. Still, that was a minor irritant – I thought she was very good as the young soon-to-be king.
Still, overall, the whole day was a great success and we promised ourselves more trips to the Festival Theatre and definitely more lunches at the Brasserie.
Something I would have added is when Macbeth makes the claim to Macduff that he cannot be killed by anyone of a woman born. In the delightful twist Macduff tells him he was born by Cesarean delivery. I think this could have been greatly enhanced if, after Macbeth made his claim, Macduff just burst into laughter before admitting the truth.