Stark reminder of a classic

Robert Cavanah as Macbeth at the Octagon, Bolton
Robert Cavanah as Macbeth at the Octagon, Bolton
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review: “Macbeth”, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, until March 17th.

Box office: 01204 520661. Website:

On a dark winter evening I wonder why I am going to see yet another production of Macbeth, “the Scottish Play”.

I have taught it more times than I care to remember and seen it often. However, David Thacker’s stark, minimalist interpretation, reminded me yet again what a powerful play this is.

The bare stage, with nothing but a trapdoor to some infernal region, a table and a few chairs that get pushed on and off, and a great metal door that crashes open and shut, allows us to focus on the language. I really appreciated all the soliloquies.

Robert Cavanah is Macbeth and Suzan Sylvester is Lady Macbeth. They are supported by a team of eight other actors who take on a variety of roles. Russell Dixon makes the most of the only moment of humour as the Porter and he, with Iestyn Arwel and Georgina Strawson, play the Weyard Sister, aka the witches.

David Thacker uses their presence throughout the action, hovering, watching, and adding a dark intensity to the downfall of an ambitious man drawn deeper and deeper into brutality. This is thought-provoking production.

Iestyn Arwel is a frightening Seyton. My only quibble is the variety of accents, from Scottish to Irish, Lancashire and Yorkshire. It was a very slight distraction. I don’t expect Shakespeare always to be in Received Pronunciation, but some were not consistent. The Octagon’s next production is Terence Rattigan’s well-known play “The Winslow Boy” and soon there will be “Queen of the North”, the story of Pat Phoenix.