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10th January 2020

Macbeth at Oakham School

Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been performed no less than four times at Oakham School. It is remembered as a play of “firsts”.

Macbeth:1953 – 1988 – 2001

1953 – The first Shakespearean play performed in the Barraclough Hall.

Macbeth was first directed in December 1953 by Leslie Coleman, then a Maths master. Theatrical effects had to be experimented with. For instance, the witches got their fog of smoke powder from the chemistry labs.

One thing was certain before the curtain went up, as soon as the lights were dimmed and the opening music began, the Barraclough Hall is an admirable setting for Shakespeare. The dim lights reflecting on the stone walls at the side of the stage curtains might have been the light of a pale moon shining on the castle at Inverness. The lighting, the choice of incidental music, the noises off, effects and timing were all beyond criticism, and all played their part in establishing atmosphere without drawing attention to themselves for cleverness-but the cleverness was there all right, and there must have been a great deal of patient experiment and invention before just the right effect was achieved. Of the actors, the principals, P. M. North as Macbeth and J. A. Cope as Lady Macbeth, were in a very high class indeed as schoolboy actors.” Oakhamian Magazine, Easter term 1954, vol 69.

L to R: J. R. G. Schofield, and M. L. Moden (effects – up), J.A. Cope as Lady Macbeth, J. T. Tabberer and J. B. Blair (lights), P.M. de Fraine (prompter), P.M. North as Macbeth, J. Bellamy (grand electrician).

1988 – The first Shakespearean play performed in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

It was also the first Shakespeare that David Smith directed as Director of Drama. It was performed in March 1988 in the newly refurbished QET. Leslie Coleman, the original director, summarised the 1988 performance in four elements: “David Smith’s taut, imaginative and fast-moving production; a design staff (set, costumes, music, lights and props) which combined splendidly to catch the ‘feel’; a very hardworking and committed company; Andrew Pullan’s outstanding performance.

Rebecca Ward and Andrew Pullman as Lady Macbeth and Macbeth.

2001/2002 – The first of the major tragedies taken on tour to the United States.

It was again directed by David Smith. However, the set, costumes and interpretation were quite different from that of 1988. The staging was innovative and the cast and crew took some risks, omitting for instance the witches’ first scene. The actors moved in a pared-down stage design of a black set and a red circle, suggesting the dark and bloody action. Katie White and Camilla Lawson shared the roles of Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff.

The cast toured in California and played at four venues during the Easter break 2001.

The cast and crew on tour in California.


Nick Dalton and Camilla Lawson as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

2009 – Played for the first time outside the theatre.

On Friday 13 November 2009 premiered the main school production of Macbeth, directed by Gilly Norell. The Head of Drama reinvented the play and the space completely. The set was indeed not inside the school theatre but in a tent, in the QET quad. Rather appropriately for a performance of the Scottish play, the cast performed under inclement weather of rain and wind. A memorable scene was the emerging of the witches from beneath the banqueting table, following the appearance of Banquo’s ghost – “a veritable coup de theatre”.

 On the stage of Macbeth in 2009.

The witches.




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