Birmingham / Manchester
MACBETH: William Shakespeare
Birmingham Rep, to 30 January
0121 236 4455
Then HOME, Manchester 2-6 February
A Birmingham Rep, Young Vic, HOME Production
Runs 2h 05m, no interval.
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, Birmingham Rep, 27 January 2016
A big rumbling production, full of foreboding.
This is a highly atmospheric production. The script is much pruned; in a sense laid bare, much like the setting. Electric lights flicker, the air is full of bangs, crackles, moans. The setting is dark, light casts great shadows. Doom hovers like a dark cloud, tragedy or horror-story, no matter, we are drawn into this world of intrigue and bloody murder. No sitting on the fence in this production.
Only the bones of the text remain, yet the play holds up well – this is still Shakespeare’s play. Between these sections are strange dance episodes. These are more problematic. When the witches dance, we understand, but at other moments they lose their point and sometimes go on too long. However, they do nicely frame the text sections – but is that enough of a reason?
John Heffernan makes a terrific Macbeth. He is a man ensnared by the witches’ prophecy. Drawn along by it, rather than driving himself along the path. Having taken the first step, he’s caught; he moves on because there is no going back. ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow . . . ‘ is full of sickness and self-loathing, and you can’t help feeling that, for this Macbeth, death is a happy release.
Anna Maxwell Martin starts well as Lady Macbeth; unlike her husband, she is full of excited energy at the prophesy. She wants the power and drives on towards it. However, as yet, she does not succeed in acquiring the weight Lady M needs, she doesn’t dress herself in the role she (temporarily) wins.
Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerlin have created a strong and unique vision of this play; a 21st Century cynical view, too. Duncan appears more dictator than kind monarch, and it’s doubtful the reluctant Malcolm will last five minutes as ruler (the prophecy can be fulfilled.) It all takes place in Lizzie Clachan’s bleak, icy-cold set; much is gained, too, from lighting, sound and music contributions (Neil Austin, David McSeveney, Clark).
Nicholas Burns: Duncan / Macduff
Mark Ebulue: Ross
Thomasin Gulgec: Murderer
John Heffernan: Macbeth
Ben Lamb: Malcolm
Cassie Layton: Lady Macduff / Lennox
Anna Maxwell Martin: Lady Macbeth
Ana Beatriz Meireles: Witch / Child
Jessie Oshodi: Witch/ Child
Prasanna Puwanarajah: Banquo
Ira Mandela Siovhan: Porter
Clemmie Sveaas: Witch / Child
Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin: Directors
Lizzie Clachan: Set Designer
Merle Hensel: Costume Designer
Neil Austin: Lighting Designer
David McSeveney: Sound Designer
Amy Ball: Casting
Finn Den Hertog: Assistant Director
Michal Keyamo: Trainee Assistant Director