Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval: till 26 January
But for fine central performances, a stinker!
This Macbeth is one of those productions where a great play featuring some fine performances is grievously ill-served by a heavy-handed director, in this case Rufus Norris. He seems more anxious to make his mark than he is to treat us to a slice of Shakespeare.
Norris forces proceedings into some sort of post-apocalyptic future, a wheeze which generates a host of ghastly absurdities in terms of text and action. The set is dominated by a huge black curving slope, which needs to be wheeled noisily about the stage to facilitate scene changes. And the banquet where Banquo’s ghost appears is held in what looks like a broken-down squat.
Costumes are chaotic. Duncan (Tom Mannion), and later Macbeth, are each made to wear a bright red outfit, like that of a ringmaster in a struggling circus; Macduff (Ross Waiton) a lot of the time is dressed like a sociology lecturer…
The three weird sisters (on press night two weird sisters and one weird brother) scenes are mangled in a welter of gratuitous gimmickry. There’s no cauldron or hubble-bubbling; instead we get some puzzling pole-climbing (the poles look like giant upturned mops). Over-loud sound effects render it impossible to follow what the sisters and their brother are saying. And that low-life Porter scene is a mess.
Rising above all this nonsense, and especially post-interval, Michael Nardone as Macbeth and Kirsty Besterman as Lady Macbeth contrive to give compelling performances.
There’s a sexual charge between them. More crucially, Besterman delivers her text movingly and clearly throughout; as does Nardone, especially in the sublime “She should have died hereafter” speech. When he breaks it in half to go and caress his dead wife, Nardone makes the encounter the emotional height of the evening.
Overall though, Norris has compounded a great tragedy with another, gratuitous, one.
Lady Macbeth: Kirsty Besterman
Malcolm: Joseph Brown
Witch: Elizabeth Chan
Fleance: Nisa Cole
Doctor/Ensemble: Reuben Johnson
Murderers: Helen Katamba, Brad Morrison and Hauk Pattison
Duncan: Tom Mannion
Macbeth: Michael Nardone
Witch/Boy: Evelyn Roberts
Lennox: James Robinson
Banquo: Patrick Robinson
Siward/Ensemble: Duncan Ross
Ross: Rachel Sanders
Witch/Gentlewoman: Olivia Sweeney
Macduff: Ross Waiton
Porter: Deka Walmsley
Lady Macduff: Lisa Zahra
Director: Rufus Norris
Set Designer: Rae Smith
Tour Lighting Designer: Paul Pyant
Sound Designer: Paul Arditti
Costume Designer: Moritz Junge