This year, a production of Macbeth feels like the old adage about buses: you wait ages for one, then two or three come along in quick succession. 

This is my third Scottish play of the year, but the first to be staged outdoors (in the beautiful setting of the Lower Bowls Green in Colchester’s Castle Park) and the first all-female cast. Overall, the all-female aspect added little to the interpretation but also took nothing away; the play’s the thing in Patrick Marlowe’s well-paced, very well-spoken production: the text sings out in many parts of the play.

Rebecca Helen is a confident Macbeth, although I felt physically, she could have enhanced his power and swagger as the play goes on, but she expresses his fears and doubts very well, and the “tomorrow and tomorrow” speech is beautifully delivered. Lady Macbeth is a tricky role; for centuries, people have felt there is a missing scene before her mad one, and Naimh Hine does well with it; her projection is excellent. She is, however, even more impressive, doubling up as the First Witch, and together with Emily Millwood and Flavia Ferretti, these are enjoyable scenes, two young children in front of me delighting the in the cauldron scene! 

Sara Jane Derrick steals the show as a hilarious Porter, then gives authority and dignity to such characters as Duncan and the Doctor. Her experience shines, though; the rest of the cast is quite similar in age, so there is little sense of inter-generational conflict. Some projection is lost from some performers, but this will improve as the company gains confidence with the particular demands of open-air theatre! 

The fight sequences felt a little cautious, with some of it taking place right at the front of the stage so only the front row could see it, and the supernatural element is missing; there is a sound score at significant moments, but I could barely hear it from where I was sitting. However, the production will grow in confidence, and let’s hope for good weather, as it’s such a treat to get a cultural event like this performed in Colchester. Tickets are selling well; don’t leave it too late!

Until 22nd June, visit to book.  

Paul T. Davies