The Tower Theatre performing at St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch
Review by Michael Skellern for "Sardines" magazine :
Macbeth is the
Shakespearean equivalent of an action movie. That's an interpretation that some productions and a couple of awful movies have tried
to prove to us but the production put on by the Tower Theatre Company definitively proves this. Set in St. Leonard's Church in Shoreditch,
a spiritual home of Shakespeare's works, the players created many magical moments over the course of one of the Bard's most intense plays
under the talented eye and assured hand of director, Ruth Sullivan.
St. Leonard's Church was a character in itself in this production, one which provoked both frustration and amazement.
Conveying Shakespeare's difficult verse was made much more difficult for the actors by the acoustics, which some overcame
more effectively than others. When you add this to the fact that it was virtually impossible to hear someone when they had their
back to you, a frequent occurrence due to the thrust staging, the first act dragged at times.
However, that weakness became a strength in the second act as the pace picked up and the action became more visceral.
The playing space doubled in size as the actors utilised the altar behind them, effectively using sheets and silhouettes
in Macbeth's second encounter with the witches. The balconies above our heads suddenly became the meeting places of the various
soldiers laying siege upon Macbeth's castle and the final joust between Macbeth and Macduff spanned the entire length of the church.
And now to the actors: Simon Boughey in the title role is an absolute delight. His physical presence and regal bearing are just right for
the character and Boughey portrays the internal conflict of Macbeth with ease and finesse; he was at his strongest when soliloquising
about his vaulting ambition. Julie Arrowsmith as Lady Macbeth takes the iconic role and makes it her own; Aqil Zahid and Laurence Ward
deserve special mentions for Macduff and Banquo respectively; but the highest mention has to go to Jimmy Smallwood as Malcolm. Smallwood
is focused, clear and enigmatic in the role and has a clear knack for bringing the verse to life.
Backstage, there was definitely an understanding of what elements go into creating spectacular moments. The soundscape,
particularly the percussion, was evocative and interesting, and the witches' scenes were made all the more other-worldly with this element.
The lighting was simple yet served the story well and the set transitions were also simple and elegant.
This play was brilliant and the players (who have now taken this production to Paris) should be commended for all of their hard work.
Cast : Weird Sisters : Carla Evans, Annemarie Fearnley, Philippa Tatham
Familiars : Liz Jardine Smith, Veronica Ley, Stella Werth
King Duncan : John Irvine
Malcolm : Jimmy Smallwood
Seyton : Ed O'Shaughnessy
Macduff : Aqil Zahid
Ross : Daniel Watson
Lennox : Alex Buckley
Macbeth : Simon Boughey
Banquo : Laurence Ward
Lady Macbeth : Julie Arrowsmith
Lady Macduff : Louisa Norman
Sons : Murdo and Hamish McClelland
Gentlewoman : Amy Dunn
Old Siward : John Irvine
Young Siward : Iain Handyside
Director : Ruth Sullivan
Assistant Director : Richard Kirby
Fight Directors : Richard Kirby & Lindsay Royan
Set & Costume Design : Aaron Marsden
Lighting Design : Andy Peregrine
Simon Boughey has been a Tower member for a little over a year, and in 2010 played Alastair in the political
satire Whipping it Up and He in Hang Up, an Anthony Minghella two-hander. He grew up in Staffordshire and now
lives in Islington but spent 13 years in the USA where he began acting. He trained at HB Studio in New York and The Actors Company in
London. While in the USA, he toured as the Duke of Buckingham in The Three Musketeers and also played Jerry in Betrayal.
Earlier this year, he could be seen naked six times a week in Seduction, at the Above The Stag Theatre in Victoria. By day,
he works as a financial journalist and analyst. Simon is also a Stoke City season ticket holder.
Julie Arrowsmith first brought the house down at the age of fifteen when her prop cottage fell on her during a production of
Hans, The Witch and The Gobbin. Since then, she has acted with Guide Bridge and Manchester Youth Theatres and Leeds University's
Studio Theatre where she performed in The Room and Under Milk Wood, and even donned a black wig and dancing shoes to play
a Puerto Rican in West Side Story. She joined the Tower in 1994. Favourite roles include Titania (A Midsummer Night's
Dream), Helena (Look Back in Anger) and Frank (Men of the World). This is her first role back at the Tower
following a break to retrain as a speech and language therapist.
This is Laurence Ward's second production with the Tower - he previously appeared in the summer tour of
Julius Caesar as Cassius. Laurence trained at City Lit and has recently appeared in a number of productions including
Seven Colours and Cradle and Fall, both of which were devised and created by Fold Up Theatre, a company in which he is a
founding member. Other credits include The Fold Up Sketch Show, The Canterbury Tales, Blood Wedding and The Libertine.
Ed O'Shaughnessy has been with the Tower since late 2009; Macbeth will be his sixth show. Most recently
he has played Cyprian in Princess Ivona and a myriad of characters in Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll. Having also been in
Julius Caesar last year, at this rate Ed has excitedly calculated he could have been in all 37 Shakespeare plays by 2046.
Annemarie Fearnley has been a member of the Tower for a quarter of a century, but this is her first
Shakespeare/Paris tour with the company! Her last forays into Shakespeare were as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Nerissa in
The Merchant of Venice with the City Lit Shakespeare Theatre in the 80s. With the Tower, roles have been as diverse as a
tap-dancing skeleton in panto, Dick Whittington, Polly Peachum in The Threepenny Opera and Eugenie in Vincent in Brixton.
Minack shows includeThe Little Shop of Horrors, Mr Cinders, Nicholas Nickleby and Lark Rise. She has been in All Star
Productions' Assassins and Side by Side by Sondheim at Hoxton Hall. She was also a singer with the bands 'Simply Vocal'
and 'The Checkmates'.
Carla Evans is a new member at the Tower, having joined in February 2011. She played Becky Sharp in the Tower's
rehearsed reading of Vanity Fair in March and Macbeth will be her first full production. In the past, Carla has
appeared in productions at the Bromley Little Theatre and Beckenham Theatre Centre and has taken various acting courses at the
City Literary Institute.
Philippa Tatham started her London acting career dressed as an Elizabethan whore on the Southwark streets.
Since then, her credits have included Autolycus (The Winter's Tale), Mistress Overdone (Measure for Measure),
Dormouse/ Tweedledum (Curiouser and Curiouser) and Sebastian (Twelfth Night). In 2010 she directed her own show The
Adventures of Sydney and Arabella, The Exiled Urban Foxes at the Camden Fringe. She has also staged plays at The King's Head,
Tabard, New End, Baron's Court and Rose Theatres as well as with London Irish Theatre. She will appear as Beatrice in Rooftop Theatre's
Much Ado About Nothing in St Albans this July.
John Irvine John has played a number of roles including Sir Charles Gill in
Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde (SEDOS) and General Strammfest in The Bolshevik Empress.
He has performed with the Bubble & Squeak Collective and has taken part in rehearsed readings of new works by Mark Normandy, Greg Lofton
and Paul McNeilly. Last summer he played The Preacher and The Spin Doctor in You Me Bum Bum Train (the Barbican's
fastest selling show in 2010) and his next role is in Breaking the Code with South London Theatre. Macbeth is John's
third production with the Tower Theatre - he was previously seen in Princess macbeth and The Trial. He has also had small
parts in short films involving zombies (Houseparty of the Dead 6), brain dead office workers (Short Story), and
werewolves (The Ritual).
Jimmy Smallwood joined the Tower 18 months ago and this is his third production. He last appeared in
Lark Rise as a cheerful scything harvester and a young soldier. The show played at the Minack Theatre on the 2010
Tower Cornwall tour. Other productions include Whipping It Up (Tower Theatre), Teechers (Theatre West 4),
The Pillowman and Betrayal (both Leeds Theatre Group). In real life Jimmy is a journalist living in West London
who enjoys cricket in the summer and real ale all year round.
Daniel Watson's previous Shakespeare roles include Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Quince in A
Midsummer Night's Dream. He has acted in several productions with the Tower Theatre Company. He played Oliver in As You Like
It and has had roles in Pygmalion, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, An Enemy of the People, Tonight at 8.30,
Lady Windermere's Fan, Dancing at Lughnasa, Rutherford and Son, Fallen Angels, Relative Values, Hard Times, Sail Away, Habeus Corpus,
Lock Up Your Daughters and The Homecoming.
Aqil Zahid trained at the City Lit. He recently appeared as Petruchio at
The Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations in Stratford-upon-Avon. Other recent theatre credits include four-week runs of The Cherry
Orchard at the White Bear Theatre and as Sade in Marat/Sade at The Courtyard Theatre. He has appeared at the Camden Fringe Festival as
Aegistheus in The Flies and in Blonde Compassion: A Yoga Comedy. He received a special mention as Ruckley in One Flew Over
the Cuckoo's Nest. Recent film credits include Replica. This is his second year and second production with the Tower Theatre,
having witnessed the demise of Caesar in 2010.
This is Iain Handyside's first production with the Tower Theatre having joined the company in November 2010.
He lives in Elephant and Castle and trained at the Actors Centre in Central London having previously studied Modern History at the
University of St Andrews. Past roles include Ko-Ko in The Mikado and a Nazi Youth in Cabaret. He works as an Assistant Artist Manager for a music agency.
This is Liz Jardine Smith's first production with the Tower. She has previously appeared as Vickey
in Hobson's Choice and Linda in Ladies' Day at the Questors, and will be returning to the role of Linda in the
autumn in the sequel Ladies Down Under. Playing a fairly gender non-specific Familiar and Fleance in Macbeth,
therefore, makes a welcome change from corsets, bustles and feather boas, plus she gets to make a lot of noise with an enormous drum.
Veronica Ley (Ronnie) lives in North London with her parents and older sister. This is her first role at the
Tower Theatre after previously appearing in productions of the musicals Annie, Blitz and Annie Get Your Gun
with the North London Theatre Company. When not on stage she enjoys coaching and competing in athletics. Ronnie is a member of
the Enfield Youth Parliament and is part of the Ley family 'dynasty' who have been actively involved in the Tower since the late
Colin Ley's directorial debut in 1962. She follows in the steps of her father Peter Ley and uncles Stephen and Phillip Ley who all
also appeared in Tower Productions of Macbeth!
This is Murdo McClelland's first production with the Tower Theatre Company, or indeed anywhere, although he
was critically acclaimed for his portrayal of the 11th Doctor in his primary school leaving assembly. He lives in Bromley with
his brother Hamish and reluctant stage mother, having recently moved to London from Glasgow. His favourite actor is Michael
Cera and his favourite play is Hamlet, 'because it's a dark story about murder and betrayal and it has a good twisty ending'.
His interests outside theatre include video games, manga art and free running.
This is Hamish McClelland's first production with the Tower, having previously played a donkey in the school
nativity. He lives in Bromley with his brother Murdo and his mum. His favourite actors are Elisabeth Sladen & Tom Baker.
His favourite play is Twelfth Night, because 'it's a very nice story and it was the first play by Shakespeare that I read.'
When he leaves school, he wants to be a zoologist or drama teacher. Or both (!). He enjoys cooking, would happily eat only chicken
curry for the rest of his life and is a big fan of Doctor Who and David Attenborough.
Louisa Norman joined the Tower Theatre in 2007 and has since appeared in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,
The York Realist, Blood Wedding and Lark Rise, touring to Minack in summer 2010. She will shortly be appearing as Julie in
Jake's Women. She is also a member of the Questors where she recently took part in the Open Stages RSC workshop.
She has a BA in Drama from the University of Wales and was also a member of The Questors student group from 2007-9.
In her spare time Louisa enjoys travelling, playing the saxophone and reviewing London theatre for Offwestend.com.