MACBETH: in rep RSC till 6 October

MACBETH: William Shakespeare
RSC: Main House, Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 2h 50m, one interval; in rep till 06 10 11
Review: Rod Dungate 26 04 11

Thrilling, multi-layered storytelling from a group of friends

Michael Boyd’s production is a thrilling, integrated event of storytelling – it’s expansive and fits wonderfully into the new RSC space. Watching this MACBETH is like having a group of friends perform for you in a big room . . . which I suppose the performance is! What more could you want?

Macbeth is usually about who’s playing Macbeth; without downplaying Jonathan Slinger’s performance in any way, this production is much more about the story of Macbeth. Boyd achieves this coup with three threads that run through – a haunting score (Craig Armstrong) and on-stage musicians, an extended role for Ross (passionate and a perfect bridge for us into the Macbeth world) from Scott Handy, and a trio of children who replace the witches. The last is a brilliant idea; ghostly children is entirely in tune with our modern psyche and desire for the supernatural to exist. We accept this level of the supernatural without question. Gone is the opening scene; the shock is saved for later – the effect, eerie. But Mr Boyd, you’ve underused this marvellous conceit. (There is a further child twist, but best leave some surprises.)

But another level to the production exists too – modern politics is never too far from the surface. There is an emphasis on the victims of war (of deadly squabbling among ruling factions) and in particular on child victims. We are not surprised to see Duncan and then Macbeth dressed in royal white; but as we focus on the younger generation we see before us what is now, trendily, called ‘the Arab spring.’ Boyd’s parallel, while not over burdensome, is clear.

Jonathan Slinger gives us range and clarity as Macbeth, but doesn’t yet totally convince as a fearsome warrior. Aislin McGuckin’s Lady M is passionate, determined and at times frightening. Steve Toussaint cuts a fine and honest figure as Banquo, as does Aiden Kelly as Macduff. Kelly holds all emotion back, always; until, that is, the floodgates open as he hears of the death of his family – the man takes over from the soldier. Powerful.

Tom Piper’s gigantic ruined church windows form a perfect backdrop for the action, solidity and disintegration encapsulated.

Malcolm: Howard Charles
Duncan: Des McAleer
Donalbain: Nikesh Patel
Menteth: Daniel Percival
Angus: Daniel Rose
Ross: Scott Handy
Macbeth: Jonathan Slinger
Banquo: Steve Toussaint
Children: Jason Battersby, Charlie Blackwood, Sienna Callen-Franklin, Thomas Ford, Hal Hewetson, Tallulah Markham, Jacob Mauchlen, Isabella Sanders, Charlie Waters
Lady Macbeth: Aislin McGuckin
Doctor at Macbeth’s Court: Christopher Wright
Lady in Waiting: Madeline Appiah
Fleance: Kadeem Banks, Anwar Ridwan, Gabriel Sweniku
Seyton: Jamie Beamish
Macduff: Aidan Kelly
Lady Macduff: Caroline Martin
Doctor at Edward the Confessor’s Court: David McGranaghan

Directed by: Michael Boyd
Designed by: Tom Piper
Lighting Designed by: Jean Kalman
Music by: Craig Armstrong
Sound Designed by; Andrew Franks
Movement by: Struan Leslie
Fights by: Terry King
Puppetry Consultant: Steve Tiplady
Acrobatic Coach: Danny MacDonald
Assistant Director: Jack McNamara
Music Director: John Woolf
Company Text and Voice Work: Lyn Darnely
Additional Company Movement by: Kate Sagovsky
Casting by: Helena Palmer
Children’s Casting by: Barbara Roberts

2011-04-27 10:18:31

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