By Eva Bottinga
–The combination of a Shakespearean drama and a lighthearted musical seemed ambitious at first, but OnStage did a great job connecting the two elements. On March 23, they premiered their new musical Macbeth at the Crea Theatre. With the addition of modern music, new dialogue, a dance crew, a choir and a band, to a well-known story, this performance of Macbeth was OnStage’s biggest show to date and hopefully not its last.
The theatre was completely dark and filled with smoke. After the narrator had introduced the play, the whole stage became visible where the actors, all dressed in white, were lined up. The band, which was a permanent part of the decorum, was placed behind them. Five crates and a candle were at the centre of the stage. Then the lights went on. Altogether this made for a very dramatic entrance.
Following the initial scene, three witches entered the stage and it immediately became clear that they were the humoristic element of the play. The shift between the dramatic entrance scene and the light-heartedness of the witches seemed odd at first and both the actors and the audience visibly needed time to get used to it.
As soon as one of the witches pulled off a Scottish accent, the whole audience was laughing and the right tone for the rest of the play was set. This also made the other actors more confident and relaxed. It became clear that the play was closer to a musical than to a drama, with a focus on humor and entertainment.
The storyline of the play was easy to follow, an impressive feat, considering it contained such a variety of elements. However, despite some dramatic scenes and components, the play was lacking the gravity of a Shakespearean drama.
This lack was more than made up for by the actor’s performance. The roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were played convincingly and Lady Macbeth’s manipulative character and Macbeth’s slight stupidity were well embodied. James Dancey, a first-year Political Science major, shone with his performance of Banquo and was undoubtedly the highlight of the show. Dancey acted incredibly natural and with much enthusiasm. His talent for both drama and comedy was on full display during his solo performance of Lily Allen’s song “F*ck You“.
One of the most creative elements of the musical was the choice of music. For the intervals between the scenes modern songs were selected. After the first act, the band started playing “Toxic“, by Britney Spears, which came as a surprise and made the entire audience want to sing along. The band contributed to this enthusiasm with its good and rhythmical sound. Considering the musical quality of the band, some additional space for solos would have been beneficial, to provide an opportunity for the individual musicians to showcase their talent. As it was, the band mostly provided background music.
The element of dance was executed professionally. The dancers were very much integrated in the narrative of the play and clearly knew the routine. The combination of their white costumes with the use of lighting created an impressive atmosphere.
The musical was entertaining and contained a variety of surprises, for instance the choice of songs and the quality of the acting. Turning such a complicated story into a musical is a difficult task in itself and I can say no more than Pieter Buijs, a second-year Humanities major and Julie Schoorl, a third-year Science major, together with all other actors, singers, dancers, and musicians, did a great job!