Macbeth, 4****, Stratford U Avon and London

Macbeth: William Shakespeare


RSC:  Royal Shakespeare Theatre</b>

Then Barbican, London

Runs: 2h 20 m, one interval

Stratford Upon Avon to 18 September 2018

then Barbican, London, to 18 January 2019


Review: Rod Dungate, 31 March 2018


Strong modern story-telling in Gothic Mode

This is a horror story – dark and brooding, loud interventions from the heavens, and scary witches overseeing it all.  They tell us, too, at the end that, in true horror style, the cycle of violence and greed for power never ends.  Which makes it, of course, ironically not like a horror film but rather more true to life.  Chilling.

The witches set the tone – not three crones or the like, but three little girls, remind us perhaps of The Shining.   The story itself, is removed from Scotland (which presents no problem I can see) and in Christopher Eccleston’s no-nonsense portrayal has a rough brusqueness which is compelling.  Polly Findlay, who directs, goes for a cracking pace so that events, once set in motion, have a volition of their own.  Well wound up, then, by the little witches.  The tension is further increased by the sound-scape, captions, lighting and a digital clock, counting down the seconds.

Christopher Eccleston is a fine edgy and intense player.  His opening scenes are puzzling, for we seem him almost disengaged from his actions.  But after Dunan’s murder it all falls into place.  Macbeth was, to an extent, himself disengaged, playing, as it were, a game – ‘What an exciting idea to murder to become king.’  (So the witches do cause it to happen then?)  But after the murder, events become, for Macbeth, all too real. Now he is consumed by them, and, indeed, over-whelmed by them.  This is a rough, soldierly man who finds himself out of his depth and has neither the emotional nor psychological robustness to handle what he has done.     As with his character, Eccleston gives us the big speeches without flourish, straight-down-the-line, but with great clarity.

Niamh Cusack offers us Lady Macbeth.  It’s an intelligent performance, but against the rough-hewn Macbeth seems too feminine, we find it hard to believe shy can be any kind of power behind this usurped throne.

Edward Bennett creates a fine Macduff – tough but with an interesting aristocratic centre.  The moment when he learns of his household’s murder is beautifully handled.  Such powerful silences.

There is a strong ensemble all working well together.  But somewhat marred by frequent lapses of diction from younger cast members (not the children.)  Perhaps it’s old-fashioned, but it is good to hear what is being said.

Good, strong, story-telling, nevertheless, with an apposite and chilling, modern twist.

Duncan: David Acton

Lord / Young Siward / Murderer: Afolobi Alli

Donalbain / Lady: Donna Banya

Bloody Captain / Murderer: Stevie Basoulo

Macduff: Edward Bennett

Doctor / Lady: Katy Brittain

Aide: Raif Clarke

Lady Macbeth: Niamh Cusack

Siward / Chamberlain: Paul Dodds

Macbeth: Christopher Eccleston

Aide: Josh Finan

Ross: Bally Gill

Lady Macduff: Mariam Haque

Porter: Michael Hodgson

Chamberlain / Lord / Murderer: John Macaulay

Malcolm: Luke Newberry

Security Guard / Murderer: Tom Padley

Lennox: Tim Samuels

Banquo: Raphael Sowole

Director: Polly Findlay

Designer: Fly Davis

Lighting: Lizzie Powell

Music: Rupert Cross

Sound: Christopher Shult

Movement: Aline David

Fights: Kate Walters

Illusions: Chris Fisher

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