Leather, tartan, and a whole lot of spooky

Lady Macbeth is Adrienne Fitch and Macbeth is Warren Macaulay. (Photo by Michael Holmes-Lauder)

The sun was just starting to go down as the crowd followed their spear-wielding guides to a large tree. We unfurled our blankets and mats and sat on the ground, talking amongst ourselves.

A hiss rang out from the woods. We looked around but couldn’t seem to find where it was coming from.

A shrill cry. Our eyes move up into the tree and soon we were surrounded by three witches – only in Fredericton.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Bard in the Barracks’ production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Odell Park that ran from May 28 to June 2. Held in conjunction with Fredericton’s hosting of the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities, the show was a revamped version of last summer’s production.

Len Falkenstein is the Director of Drama at UNB as well as the Artistic Director of Bard in the Barracks, which is a cooperative project between Theatre UNB and the NotaBle Acts Theatre Company based here in Fredericton. He said in the director’s note of the program that the choice to stage the show was inspired by the venue. After seeing the show I agree completely with the decision – Odell Park is a beautiful and spooky performance space and the perfect place to host Macbeth.

Upon purchasing my very affordable ticket – especially considering the high caliber of the show – I was given a flashlight, a mat to sit on and access to bug spray. Well-played, Bard and the Barracks. Your attention to detail and comfort was much appreciated when it got dark and scary outside.

The crowd was ushered onto a path and greeted by Falkenstein and three ominous tour guides/soldiers. The guides were a great addition to the tone of the play and remained completely in character while directing the crowd from scene to scene.

Falkenstein did a great job in choosing locations suited to the action of the play. As the plot thickened we went deeper into the woods, which was coupled dramatically with the overcast and rainy conditions and the sun going down.

The witches in productions of Macbeth are usually telling in terms of artistic decisions such as costuming and set design, and I loved the choice to dress them in leather, animal prints and face paint. They appeared out of nowhere and made all sorts of wild, frightening noises while one dined on a rabbit.

The witches’ acting set the bar high for the rest of the show, and the other cast members definitely didn’t disappoint.

Each actor filled their roles well and I was blown away by the Macbeth/Lady Macbeth team of Warren Macaulay and Adrienne Fitch. Fitch was excellent in her delivery of the line involving a baby’s brain being dashed out – fierce and power-hungry with just the right amount of crazy.

The leather costuming carried over from the witches and the paired with some metal studs and lots of tartan, the show stayed true to Macbeth’s traditional Scottish setting while keeping it modern and edgy.

The production featured many seasoned performers as well as up-and-comers which no doubt provided a great learning environment for all involved, which might be the loveliest part of local theatre. The large cast and crew enabled all sorts of talent to be shared, and each character fed off of each other and their setting during the show.

The production certainly embraced the challenge of an outdoor venue if not highlighted the perks. The space was fully used to the show’s potential and the natural set was breathtaking – specifically in the feast scene with Banquo’s ghost.

Seeing live theatre is always exciting because it’s rare that the company puts on the exact same show twice. On the show’s opening night one of the actors exchanged a set of lines for “Let’s ride!” It was barely noticeable, especially to those who hadn’t read the play, but one of those things that becomes a friendly inside joke for the cast and a chuckle for audience members.

Bard in the Barrack’s Macbeth was a full evening of affordable, accessible entertainment that showed off how strong theatre is in Fredericton. This summer is the first time the company will take on two separate shows in a summer, so don’t worry if you missed this one – you can catch King Lear in Odell Park June 23 – July 3.

I highly recommend it.

Bard in the Barracks was founded in 2006 and has since put on a Shakespearean play each summer.