Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Hugh Thompson as Macbeth at Shakespeare in High Park.

3 out of 4 stars

Written by
William Shakespeare
Directed by
Ker Wells
Hugh Thompson, Philippa Domville
Canadian Stage
Shakespeare in High Park
Runs Until
Sunday, September 01, 2013

Canadian Stage's Shakespeare in High Park – Canada's longest-running outdoor theatre event, now in its 31st year – has always been a joy to attend on a warm summer night. In recent years, however, the source of the pleasure seems to be shifting from the setting to the Shakespeare.

Following on the heels of Richard Rose's rejuvenated A Midsummer Night's Dream last year, we now get the short, sharp shock of Ker Wells's smart and streamlined production of Macbeth.

Hugh Thompson, a lauded Nova Scotia-based actor rarely seen in Ontario, plays the title character and, with thick arms and beard, he immediately embodies him better than more well-known actors such as Patrick Stewart or Colm Feore I've seen in the role.

Story continues below advertisement

It's rare to find a thespian who can do justice to both Macbeth's brutal and cerebral sides, but Thompson navigates the paradoxes of the character by playing him as a man of action who is learning to think as he murders his way in and out of power. He fashions the Red King's monologues into voyages of discovery – and while, at times, he seems too understated, it beats the opposite.

Wells, the director, is one of the first two graduates from a new directing program run by York University with Canadian Stage; the other, Ted Witzel, will be directing The Taming of the Shrew in repertory in High Park, but that doesn't open for a couple of weeks.

At first, Wells seems very much the student trying to impress his teachers. There's an overwhelming amount of choreographed movement in the opening and way too many lighting cues for a production that begins in the daylight. My initial thought was: Why is Stratford staging Romeo and Juliet indoors as if it is outdoors, while Canadian Stage is staging Macbeth outdoors as if it were indoors?

As "thick night" comes to High Park and Banquo dies, however, Wells's production begins to grip with its cable-horror aesthetic – that is, Celtic warriors straight out of Game of Thrones and masked witches that look and sound like zombies from The Walking Dead.

There is, famously, a missing baby at the centre of Macbeth. We are told Lady Macbeth has breastfed and that the couple are childless, but little else is said about what that means. Wells's production fills in the blanks by having ghostly children pop up everywhere.

The witches rock bundles of red cloth in their arms, while the owl's cry that frightens Lady Macbeth is a child's scream. The apparition who tells Macbeth that "none of woman born" will harm him is a spooky puppet that emerges from a cradle rather than a cauldron, then later reappears chillingly in battle.

There's also a bit of added business involving Macbeth and the death of his nemesis Macduff's family that I simply don't want to ruin. It humanizes the antihero at his worst moment and allows the play to end in a fresh way.

Story continues below advertisement

The overall suggestion is that the Macbeths lost their moral compass along with their child and that, in particular, they have a perverted idea of manliness because Macbeth has not fully experienced fatherhood. Macduff, meanwhile, knows better. When he learns of the death of "all my pretty chickens," he tells Malcolm – son of the king Macbeth assassinated – that he will dispute it like a man, "but I must also feel it as a man." It's a moving moment here – the best-acted scene in the play, in fact, thanks to Ryan Hollyman's honourable Macduff.

Philippa Domville's Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, is too underdone until her sleepwalking scene, which turns into a piece of overdone sleep-choreography. But many of the smaller parts have spark. Greg Gale brings particular flavour to Malcolm – always chewing on something or another, a physical representation of what's going on in his head. Here's a guy who thinks before he acts, raised to be a king, unlike Macbeth.

The diminutive Jennifer Dzialoszynski deserves a mention, as she usually does, for playing a number of children, and voicing the otherworldly ones, while Thomas Olajide makes a slithery impression as Rosse, here mixed together with one of the murderers. Turning this noble into a double-crosser, if nothing else, makes the scene where he briefly lies to Macduff about his family's fate make sense for once – equivocation rather than hesitation.

It's great to see Shakespeare in High Park branch out into tragedies beyond Romeo and Juliet, but parents will have to decide whether their children are old enough to attend. There are generous spurts of blood, the masks and puppets are quite creepy, and the prop head trotted out at the end is the most realistic I've ever seen. (Props to prop-maker Alex Vass.) My feeling has always been that the more adult you stage Shakespeare, the more likely you are to really interest older children and teens.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies