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Macbeth review at Caerphilly Castle – ‘lacking in atmosphere’

Richard Lynch and Ffion Dafis in Macbeth at Caerphilly Castle
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Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru brings a Welsh flavour to The Scottish Play, locating Shakespeare’s tragedy in Caerphilly Castle. It’s a potentially atmospheric space, with aged brickwork, but the novelty of the setting quickly wears off, exposing what turns out to be a solid but unspectacular Welsh language production.

The strength of Arwel Gruffydd’s show lies in its performances. Richard Lynch makes Macbeth’s transformation from brave soldier to bloodthirsty tyrant very believable; he’s particularly frightening in the second act. Lady Macbeth’s journey is less satisfying – Ffion Dafis has some inspired moments but the role feels strangely de-emphasised. Seasoned performers Llion Williams (Duncan) and Gareth John Bale (Banquo) make up the rest of a strong Welsh contingent, while there’s a small but memorable turn from Gwenllian Higginson as Lady Macduff.

Gruffydd could have done made more of the site-specific staging. Joe Fletcher does a solid job of lighting the piece though; instead of flooding the dim rooms with light, he manipulates the shadows. Less successful is the use of music and special effects, both of which come across as unnecessary – even hokey – at times.

This is an ambitious project. It will be screened across 12 cinemas in Wales on Tuesday 14 February, and there’s a degree of spectacle to the staging, but the execution doesn’t quite match the evident ambition.

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A site-specific Welsh language production of Shakespeare that doesn’t capitalise on its setting