Macbeth, KES, April 12 - 13 - 14 - 1954

Programme (courtesy of Chris Vere); review by JBAB from KES Mag 1954


1st Witch N. S. WAITE.
2nd Witch E. C. WRAGG.
3rd Witch A. J. PINION.
Duncan, King of Scotland R. J. J. ORTON.
Malcolm, his elder son R. THOMPSON.
Captain J. HOW.
Lennox J. C. TEBBET.
Macbeth, the King's cousin and general W. D. COUSIN.
Banquo, a general D. M. PARFITT.
Angus, a thane N. G. WELLINGS.
Lady Macbeth G. C. WESTLAKE.
Attendant K. JACKSON.
Fleance, Banquo's son J. A. REANEY.
Porter D. J. H. SENIOR.
Macduff, Thane of Fife E. P. LODGE.
Donalbain, Duncan's younger son J. L. MADDEN.
Old Man J. A. HODGSON.
1st Murderer R. LONGDEN.
2nd Murderer C. J. BELK.
3rd Murderer D. BAILEY.
1St Apparition J. D. CARTWRIGHT.
2nd Apparition S. G. LINSTEAD.
3rd Apparition N. D. WORSWICK.
Lady Macduff J. BUCHAN.
Young Macduff, her son N. SAXTON.
Messenger J. MILLER.
Doctor D. J. H. SENIOR.
Gentlewoman T. J. SAUNDERS.
Menteith A. M. SUGGATE.
Caithness M. L. PORTER.
Seyton, Macbeth's Steward B. D. HUTCHINSON.
Old Siward, an English general J. M. JACKSON.
Young Siward, his son E. B. RODGERS.
Soldiers J. A. ANDERSON, A. E. GRANT.


There will be one interval, of fifteen minutes, when coffee will be obtainable in the Dining Hall. Tickets should be obtained from the stewards before proceeding to the Dining Hall.

Lighting Mr. W. K. MACE, M. H. JEFFERSON.
Music Composed and recorded by Mr. N. J. BARNES.
Stage Manager N. H. CUNNINGTON.
Producer Mr. G. H. CLAYPOLE.

" Macbeth " was first played as a matinee in an unroofed theatre, without scenery or artificial lighting. The action was continuous, like that of a film.

In a School Hall like this, without modern theatrical equipment, it seemed worth while to try out a similar kind of production. The organ gallery corresponds to the " terrace " of the " Globe," and will be so used. The steps and stage extension are all we can do, with our limited line of sight, to reproduce Shakespeare's " apron " fore-stage. We have not attempted to be rigidly Elizabethan, especially as regards lighting, but we have aimed at presenting the Play with the old speed and continuity, and in Shakespearean costume.

We hope you will be able to pass quickly in imagination from the Witches' Heath to Duncan's or Macbeth's Castle, or to the English Court, as they did in 1606.


MACBETH is the shortest and the darkest of the tragedies; the very name Macbeth rhymes with death.  The play based initially on Shakespeare's favourite historical source, Holinshed's Chronicle, succeeds in blending the Greek tragedy of destiny with the villain drama of the Elizabethans.  The two most frequent words in the dialogue are" blood" and " sleep " insistently repeated ; the atmosphere is one of evil gloom thick with fear and dark foreboding. There is no light or humour, except for the brief interlude of the Porter, who only serves to heighten the suspense.

Mr. Claypole's production was an attempt to make use of the Elizabethan possibilities of the Hall, with the help of a new set of steps to the stage, and by particular emphasis upon the spoken word to reveal the full range and wealth of Shakespeare's poetry and imagery.  He succeeded in achieving a sense of diction rarely attained even in professional performances. All the cast spoke well; there was no Shaftesbury Avenue affectation or Kensingtonian pursuit of the archaic. Crispness of speech was evident in the most minor parts, where in particular I noticed S. G. Linstead's Second Apparition. I was sorry that by comparison both movement and gesture were neglected. Groupings were too staid and conventional and too many characters, particularly in the early court scenes, seemed glued to their positions. This lack of spontaneous movement was specially felt in the Fourth Act where the play's action for the moment turns away from the central characters and where the audience's attention can only be held by deft skill and swiftness of acting.

It was Goethe who said that Macbeth was Shakespeare's " best acting play ".  This is certainly true if applied to the twin roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, upon whom Shakespeare concentrated all his skill in characterisation. Upon their performance depends whether the play is to be melodrama  or tragedy. W. D. Cousin as Macbeth responded to the challenge.  He spoke with understanding and appreciation and used his eyes to advantage in this small hall to suggest Macbeth's imaginative power and consequent sense of remorse. Like the rest of the cast, however, he was unfortunately too chary of gesture and his movements were too few and indecisive. This was evident in the dagger scene, which, like all Macbeth's soliloquies, tended to be rushed.  The Lady Macbeth of G. C. Westlake was rightly matter-of-fact but insufficiently hard and cruel: again movement was too limited. The tiger fierceness of Lady Macbeth's relentless ambition was missing here.

Credit is due to E. P. Lodge's spirited Macduff, and to the tranquil grace of J. Buchan's Lady Macduff. As the Three Witches, N. S. Waite, E. C. Wragg and A. J. Pinion were not only theatrically effective but adroitly contributed to the sense of horror and evil which Shakespeare intended to permeate the play.

R. J. J. Orton, as Duncan, was gracious, but perhaps too mild, and D. M. Parfitt was particularly impressive in his ghostly passage.

R. Thompson failed to give full warmth and verisimilitude to the unrewarding role of Malcolm. Finally, passing praise for J. A. Hodgson's convincing Old Man, D. J. Senior's Porter, N. Saxton's Young Macduff, E. B. Rodgers's forceful Young Siward, and the four excellent and efficient Servants.

Costuming was generally good, although I felt the attack upon Dunsinane needed greater military pageantry.  The special music of Mr. Norman Barnes tended to be strident, partly owing to overmuch resonance in the recording. As a whole this was a challenging performance. It revealed much live dramatic talent and proved how much can be done despite restrictions of time and equipment.  This Macbeth was pleasurable to the audience and rewarding to the cast and stage assistants. It is to be hoped that this revival of the School Play will presage an annual production in the future.