The management of Westville Boys High School should be commended for their unfailing support of culture activities and, by extension, the performing arts. It is an environment such as this that allows a school to be ambitious, innovative and adventurous in the productions they tackle.
A case in point is the school’s current production, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
The Director of Culture Activities at WBHS, Luke Holder, is responsible for adapting and directing this offering of Macbeth. He has pulled out all stops, and gone big, to create a production and setting which is original, imaginative and exciting.
The question is has he succeeded? The answer is a resounding yes.
The stage of the Roy Couzens Theatre was extended right down the centre of the venue with the audience seated sideways on either side. This meant that most of the action was up close and personal.
One of the highlights of the production, and central to the atmosphere, was the heavy rain which fell on the central section of the stage at regular and appropriate intervals, Much of the action, including the excellently choreographed swordfights, took place in this pouring rain.
Fire was also a theme central to the production with the liberal use of candles and flaming torches. Of particular note were the two magnificent steel and chain chandeliers which hung from the ceiling.
Copious amounts of stage blood were used as a metaphor of Macbeth’s violent and bloody reign as the King of Scotland.
Holder has employed a chorus of witches rather than the traditional three witches in this production. It is a masterstroke and, for me, the performance highlight of the play. Right from the moment they crawl out from under the stage – giving a near-heart attack to those in the front row, including myself – these haggard witches are a constant dark and malevolent presence. They are ever-present on stage, hiding in corners, hissing and chanting like evil spirits. The “double, double toil and trouble” scene is also wonderfully gory and foul.
It was a glorious performance by all the girls and boys who played the witches.
The rest of the action is traditional with actors in kilts and period costumes and speaking Shakespeare’s original text. The cast of over 30 performers from WBHS and Westville Girls High all put in wholehearted and confident performances and seemed equal to the task of delivering the text in a convincing manner.
The technical aspects of the production were also first-rate. The lighting and sound were handled with aplomb, while the costumes and props – with special mention of the 12 authentic looking steel Claymore swords – were top notch.
This production of Macbeth is excellent and a credit to WBHS’ cultural activities programme. It must have been enormous fun, and hugely educational, for all the young people who were lucky enough to be involved in its staging.
Westville Boys High Performing Arts will present two more major productions this year. In May there will be a supper theatre presentation entitled You Can’t Stop the Beat which is a tribute to stage and screen legends of the past 60 years. In August the musical Guys and Dolls will be staged. These are two events which may well be worth diarising.
Macbeth has one more performance tomorrow night (February 13) at 19h00 in the Roy Couzens Theatre at Westville Boys’ High School. This will take the format of a My Bloody Valentine Medieval Banquet and all patrons are encouraged to dress in appropriate medieval garments! Tickets R300 per head. Bookings through Lyndy Coombe on 031 267 1330. – Keith Millar