Generally, one associates going to see Shakespeare with the expectation of grand sets and costumes and theatres, and why wouldn’t you? The language is so rich and beautiful and conveys grand themes, both heavy and lofty. However, the production of Macbeth that I attended at Theatre Ste. Catherine, was not grand; at least, the presentation was minimal. The performance, however, was grand in the truest sense of the word. The quality of the actors’ craft and commitment to the work was captivating to watch.
Let me explain. Theatre Ste. Catherine, for those who don’t know it, is a very small, intimate performance space seating perhaps 50-60 people. The stage is tiny. Seeing this, I didn’t know what to expect. Would the Shakespeare be any good? There were no sets, and the actors were simply in black, with a few character appropriate embellishments here and there. I was used to Shakespeare being presented in a large venue, or at worst, the park or on the beach in a tent. My doubts were soon to be proved wrong, to my ultimate delight.
The lack of sets and costuming were of no consequence. The quality of the acting spoke for itself and did justice to Shakespeare’s work. In fact, this small, intimate, minimal presentation of Macbeth is probably truer to the origins of Shakespeare than the glamorous production that I had become used to. The first productions of Shakespeare’s work were shown in small theatres in the round, where the actors could be intimate with their public, and so was this production at the Theatre St. Catherine, Monologues were more important, love scenes spicier, and the action more exciting. Of course, this would not have worked at all if the actors were not so fabulous.
Standout performances were those of Aton Golikov and Allie Shapiro as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Mesmerizing singly and electrifying together, their dramatic strength and onstage chemistry pulled the audience in. They were supported by an excellent cast with Maxime Paradis as Macduff, Rob Brown as Banquo, Adalia Claire, Skyler Clark, and Maxine Segalowitz as the Weird Sisters (excellent make-up jobs, by the way) and a nod to Eamon Owen as The Porter, our comic relief (and he really was hilarious).
Off to the side were a mini musical ensemble consisting of guitarist, a percussionist, a double bassist and a woman who played the hurdy-gurdy (which made me oh, so happy). They provided a welcome musical interlude during intermission and provided some musical effects at appropriate moments in the play. I couldn’t help but feel, however, that they were underutilized. This is my only criticism of an otherwise excellent production and a tiny one at that.
In retrospect, if I had done my homework prior to seeing the play, there would have been no reason for me to have doubts as to the quality of this production, despite its miniature stature. Raise the Stakes Theatre Company is founded in the highest quality of Shakespeare tradition and consists of actors from top quality training programs.
Macbeth continues at Theatre Ste. Catherine from February 3-7. For tickets and showtimes, click HeRe.