Review of Macbeth by Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre Produced by Chester Performs

Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre is currently performing its fifth season of Shakespearean Plays in Chester. Following on from the previous epic performances of the past four years we were again treated to a remarkable production of Macbeth the latest contribution of distinction produced by Chester Performs.

Macbeth is one of the most commanding of the Shakespearean tragedies and possibly the darkest of all as it examines the extent by which perpetrators will go to achieve ultimate power through mass slaughter of any obstacle in its path only to be confronted with the guilt and torment such treachery has accomplished.

Artistic Director Alex Clifton has already established himself for his originality of interpretation during the five preceding years of the Open Air Theatre performances and again we are treated to another exceptionally innovative adaptation from this very talented creator.

The three witches are portrayed as the ghosts of the slain victims of Banquo and Macbeth from the opening scene which was an ingenious deviation that contributed significantly to the supernatural manifestation that runs through the dialogue of the enactment.

The casting of the witches was a credit to Alex Clifton and Kay Magson drawing on the resources from last years’ season of twins Danielle and Nicola Bird together with the introduction of Max Gallagher. Their portrayal and prophecies were both chilling and mesmerising capturing all of the darker aspects of the unknown with their introduction at pivotal times in the Tragedy none more so than at the banquet where Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth and sizably augments to his desolation and anguish.

The casting of Mark Healy as Macbeth was an awe-inspiring pronouncement as he revealed the blood thirsty warrior obsessed with power and disposing all who obstruct his progress to be Sovereign of Scotland. This was a truly magnificent exhibition depicting the numerous facets of the role from a despot combatant crazed with the fixation of dominance to one haunted by the murderous endeavours of his actions and the insanity that pursues. Mark Healy captured all these various attributes as his charisma within the theatre was as dominant as the character he revealed. None more so than when Banquo’s ghost appears to him at the Banquet where his supremacy is now confronted by the fragility he encounters for past transgressions.  Further compounded in the final scene where he is confronted by the ghosts of those he butchered prior to his own demise at the hands of Macduff. Embellishing the chilling and mystical elements of the depiction, this was an exceptional piece of Shakespearean acting from a thespian well use to such representations.

Hannah Barrie as Lady Macbeth was sensational in her role firstly as the conniving, arrogant, manipulating deviant commanding her husband to seize dominion of the kingdom and quench her ambition for unmitigated authority before exposing a range of contrasting emotions of trepidation, culpability, desolation and wretchedness when confronted by former homicides resulting in the pertinent suicide that supervenes, truly an outstanding spectacle of theatre drama from the artist. 

Macduff played by Thomas Richardson conveys an inspiring performance commanding in the duel with Macbeth in the concluding episode, but earlier perceived revealing the agony, misery and absolute despair on learning his wife and children has all been massacred at the hands of the tyrant. The pain is etched on his face and he endeavours to comprehend the enormity of the situation that now confronts him in an astonishing representation of character tragedy.

The whole enactment was noticeably enhanced by the archetypal and imaginative design from Jessica Curtis conveying phenomenal depth and understanding to the proceedings and adeptly complimented with the Music from Harry Blake.

Grosvenor Park provides an opulent setting for the Open Air Theatre productions with its cosmic array of foliage and vegetation and the serene abode creating an inspiring and even additive compulsion to return each year.

This was our first encounter with adverse weather conditions in the last five years of our attendance, however with a substantial area of the arena now under cover and superb assistance from the posse of enthusiastic volunteers affording waterproofs to all in need, nothing was detracted from the enactment.

The besmirched skies and spasmodic showers certainly supplemented the paranormal aspects of the depiction as if established by Lighting Designer Katharine Williams herself.

Macbeth continues until 23rd August accompanied by Secret Garden to 24th August and Comedy of Errors from 1st to 24th August making this another summer of truly cultural delight here in Chester that should be enjoyed by all.

Andrew D Thompson

For information on the latest productions click GROSVENOR PARK OPEN AIR THEATRE 2014 from 4th July - 24th August - Macbeth Comedy of Errors The Secret Garden

 Past Reviews

Review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Performed by Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre and Produced by Chester Performs
Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre is currently performing its fourth season of Shakespearean Plays in Chester. Following on from the highly successful previous three years epochs featuring Much Ado About Nothing in 2010, the 2011 portrayal of As You Like It and last year we were presented with an exquisite performance of Twelfth Night. The Picnic Theatre program epitomizes the highlight of Summer in Chester and this year it features A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most ubiquitous works and features the adventures of young Athenian lovers, a group of amateur actors and a forest populated with fairies who manipulate and control their new intruders.

In the enchanting environment of Grosvenor Park with its bounteous apparel of foliage that provides the perfect ambiance for the remarkable Cast to perform one of the Bard’s utmost treasured Comedies.
The gregarious frolics of the fledgling lovers and the energetic episodes deployed by them were hilarious and very entertaining, but it was Victoria Gee whose portrayal as Helena that was truly amazing. Victoria returning again this year to the Open Air Theatre was exceptional in conveying her love and desire for Demetrius expressing both passion and despair with equal magnitude. When confounded with the spellbound Demetrius and Lysander spurns both with uniform contempt demonstrating all the frenzy and exasperation of a woman believing she is the subject of ridicule was a breath-taking depiction.

The very unique idea of portraying Robin Goodfellow and Puck as separate characters using twins Danielle and Nichole Bird respectfully proved to be a masterstroke by Director Alex Clifton and Kay Magson Casting. The Twins delivered a dynamic eruption of vigour to the performance as a whole and continually encapsulated the audience with their mischievous antics.

Graham O’Mara as Bottom epitomised the characters ostentatious and flamboyant nature with such relish and enthusiasm and if the part had been a bespoke design to match his precocious personality as he postured around the stage and plundered the audiences supplies of nourishment and beverage.

Krupa Pattani produced another flawless and commanding performance as Hippolyta and Titania and it was very pleasing to see her back at Grosvenor Park again. So it was with Chris Vincent as Oberon and Theseus providing yet another exuberant and exceptional performance as he dominated proceedings and audaciously integrated with the audience. We were very fortunate to witness another captivating enactment from Chris, an actor at the pinnacle of his profession.

As the interlocking plots unfolded under the superb direction of Alex Clifton and the astonishing Cast assembled by Chester Performs, the audience were captivated by this unique environment of Picnic Theatre. The background of Grosvenor Park with its opulent and profound supply of vegetation provides an enchanted backdrop whether in the evening sunshine or later under the mesmerizing Lights.

This is both an inspired and serene setting with a significant part of the Open Air Theatre under cover and rest of us relaxing in our deck chairs in close proximity to the stage, whilst our thespian acquaintances scavenge through our provisions of sustenance and nutrition that can only be experienced in the magnificent arena which is Picnic Theatre. But what fashions this particularly remarkable occasion more than anything is the distinctive family atmosphere that prevails and the number of young people present. Full congratulations must be given to the initiative undertaken by Chester Performs to allow all accompanied children under 12 years of age to enter free of charge to experience such an amazing ambiance of Shakespearean Drama at such a tender age.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues until 25th August accompanied by Cyrano de Bergerac to 25th August and Othello from 2nd to 23rd August making this a Summer of truly cultural delight here in Chester that surely must be enjoyed by all.


Andrew D Thompson





Review of Twelfth Night Performed by Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre and Produced by Chester Performs


Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre is currently performing its third Shakespeare Play in Chester this year. Following on from the previous two years very efficacious seasons featuring Much Ado About Nothing in 2010 and the 2011 portrayal of As You Like It, we are currently being offered to an exquisite performance of Twelfth Night which runs until 19th August.


In the enchanting environment of Grosvenor Park with its copious apparel of foliage providing the perfect backdrop for an outdoor Shakespearean experience with its natural selection of forested props we were allowed to indulge our fantasies as the enactment unfolded before us.


With a significant part of the Open Air Theatre under cover the audience are sheltered from whatever extremes the weather may yield be it rain or be it shine nothing can diminish from the enthralling production directed by the remarkably talented Artistic Director Alex Clifton.


While the audience relish in the informal and relaxed atmosphere solely unique to the Picnic Theatre experience in this very tranquil of settings under the captivating evening Lights of the Park and the close propinquity to the stage all that remains to say is  “If Music be the food of love play on”


Full recognition should be given to Chester Performs in assembling yet again such a magnificent Troupe of Actors with a very opulent pedigree of Theatre Credits as indeed they have provided on the two previous occasions in 2010 and 2011. This years’ Cast are made up of varying areas of expertise and ethnic backgrounds which both blend together also produce a rich cultural diversity which greatly enhances the performance.


Olivia played by Lorna Beckett expressed radiantly the authority her part demanded and equally conveyed irresistibly the anguish and hedonism of her emotions by the rejection of and later ecstasy in obtaining love through the sexual ambiguity and cross-dressing of Krupa Pattani as Viola and the arrival of Sebastian played by Haseeb Malik.


Great acclaim should be afforded to Feste and Sir Toby Belch played by Chris Vincent and Jack Lord respectfully ably supported by Scott Arthur as Sir Andrew Aquecheek who all contributed significantly to the humour of the play with their various escapades and drunken behaviour. These Characters truly excelled in their roles and added considerably to the appeal and enhancement of the performance.


However the outstanding artist of this production of Twelfth Night has to be Malvolio portrayed by Matthew Rixon. Playing the delusional arrogant egotistical buffoon Matthew excelled in his role showing all the panache, flamboyance and indeed humiliation the role commanded. This was a performance that his father Matthew Kelly would have been proud of and although there is both a physical and verbal resemblance this was very much a unique unblemished presentation that captivated the whole audience.



The Costumes employed showed prodigious imagination moving away from the traditional Elizabethan theme to later eras and displaying inventiveness and nuance on the original concept. Particular reference should be made to the noteworthy quality of the Music engaged and the vocal depictions of Chris Vincent playing Feste who was truly exceptional.


This magnificent unparalleled experience that only Picnic Theatre can replicate courtesy of Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre and the Production by Chester Performs should be enjoyed by all.


Andrew D Thompson


Review of Masters are you Mad Performed by Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre and Produced by Chester Performs


Glyn Maxwell returns to Chester with his new Play Masters are you Mad following his resounding success with last years’ Merlin and the Woods of Time. Directed by Robin Norton-Hale we are presented with the opportunity to witness the continuation of Twelfth Night through this new production.


Following this prolongation set some twelve years later and revolving around Malvolio’s promise that he’d “Be reveng’d on the whole pack of you” resulting from his treatment at the hands of Maria plus Sir Toby Belch and company.


The Play contains five of the original characters from the Shakespearean Comedy who with the passage of time have found themselves in circumstances of desolation. Is this the natural evolution resulting from the hastily constructed and indeed in some instances incompatible marriages performed in Twelfth Night or are their darker forces at work?


Here we find tortured souls restless emotions searching for the tranquillity and equanimity they desire so deeply in their lives. Characters questioning their sexuality, marital status even their very being search for Malvolio maybe if they atone for their past transgressions through reconciliation will they find peace?


Does love conquer all does time heal pain or are they simply illusions out of our grasp and beyond our comprehension. Equally are we Masters of our own destiny these are the examinations that the virtuosity of Glyn Maxwell leave us to explore.


Superb portrayals by Victoria Gee as Mary and the reappearance of Matthew Rixon as Malvolio excel in this production adding both merriment and despair to the complexities of their corresponding situations. They were ably abetted in this performance by Haseeb Malik as the amusing, blundering assassin and the humorous Chris Lindon as Otto the ferryman.


We are very fortunate to witness yet again another remarkable creation from the extremely talented poet and playwright Glyn Maxwell those works add considerably to the Grosvenor Open Air Theatre atmosphere.


Andrew D Thompson



Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre 2011 - As You Like It - Reviewed by Chesteronthewebcom


Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre


 As You Like It By William Shakespeare

Performed by Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre and Produced by Chester Performs.

This is now the second year that Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre has performed Shakespeare Plays here in Chester.
Following on from 2010’s very successful debut season featuring Much Ado About Nothing it was a pleasure to attend this year’s enactment of As You Like It which continues until 21st August.

Arranged in the outstanding splendour and tranquillity of Grosvenor Park there can be no better setting to appreciate the qualities of an outdoor Shakespearian encounter. Not so much All the World’s a Stage but more the epitome of Picnic Theatre at its very best.

Directed by Nikolai Foster and executed by a cast of Actors with an outstanding pedigree of Theatre Credits this was truly an exceptional presentation and a very congenial evening under the superlative Lights of the Park.

The close proximity to the stage provided the basis for the intimate depiction of the Comedy which enhanced the unfolding of the profuse plots and sub plots. The revealing elements of power, lust, the misperceptions of love and their resulting anguish and enchantment were radiantly portrayed by the accomplished Cast. The Actors interacted audaciously with the audience adding considerably to the experience of Open Air Theatre, providing there is no objection to sharing drinks with your thespian acquaintances.

The Intrigue of “As You Like It” was captured flawlessly by Natalie Grady playing Rosalind. The notable interpretation and cross-dressing disguise in the forest was very humorous but also captivated the romantic desire of the moment whilst not leading to sexual deviation.

Orlando played by David Ricardo-Pearce expressed wonderfully the exuberance and dynamism the part demanded and articulated emotively the yearning and anguish of his love for Rosalind

Particular reference should be expressed to the quality of the Choreography, Music and Costumes employed throughout the Performance, which epitomised the outstanding professionalism and significantly contributed to bringing the portrayal of the Characters to life.

Full credit should be given to Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre and the Production by Chester Performs which is one more illustration of the enormous benefits we derive from their copious presentations.

Whether you reside in the Chester area or are visiting this enthralling Roman City you should experience the atmosphere of the Open Air Theatre at least once in your lifetime.


Andrew D Thompson