Macbeth - Reviews - Sarah (4th review)

Last Update: 14 January 2003

Mid-run notes from the Albery

From Sarah - a self-confessed MacBean addict...

The opening never, never fails to surprise even though now I watch the ushers carefully, as I know that when they close up the sweet kiosk and shut the exit curtains I must get ready to be jolted from my seat. Delightfully, the audience always laughs with relief and then claps warmly. That shock somehow brings everyone together and creates a "Hey, let's enjoy ourselves tonight" feeling.

I heard the man next to me say to his wife at the interval, "I never cared much for Macbeth. But this is brilliant, isn't it? I'm so glad we came."

Despite a slight - very slight - huskiness in the voice, Sean's stage confidence has grown immeasurably: he is very assured, he is more relaxed about bringing out the meaning of the words, he isn't in such a hurry to get through the major soliloquies. Here are some quick thoughts about moments where his performance has matured:
When Duncan announces Malcolm as his heir: Macbeth at first gives a little self-congratulatory smirk - which turns to a moment of crashing disappointment, rapidly masked, as Duncan turns to Malcolm. Macbeth's first experience of concealing his feelings.

The bed scene (commonly known as NORWICH): Can it get sexier? He lingers over the clinch and gives Bond the most smouldering look that says, "In about one minute from now you are going to get ROYALLY f***ed, chuck".
"We will proceed no further...": He is so pathetically pompous at first, tugging prissily at his jacket as he tries to assert himself, but avoiding eye-contact with her: she first gives him a terrific wigging, knocking him half way across the stage - then once she has unmanned him by referring to the dead baby, she moves in for the seduction, dragging her finger across his lips - Sean makes as if to bite her finger and is so eager, he can't wait to get the murder over so that he can get back to what she promises. (Females in audience disintegrate totally.)
In Fleance's room: there is something very creepy about the way Sean sits on Fleance's bed and ruffles his hair. The boy suddenly looks very trapped, very vulnerable. Maybe it's because as a child I used to hate people sitting on my bed like that...

Murder scene - the blood does not just come off on his face and shirt. It keeps coming off onto everything - just the way real blood does. "Great Neptune's ocean..." - he lingers over the lines, huskily.

The porter's scene: lots of laughs from the handkerchief business. Last Saturday the central fire refused to light for Julian Glover when he "summoned" it: will heads roll?

Post murder - the clever staging of Lady MacBeth's descent never fails to impress me. During the dialogue between the men, when she sees MacB. appear once again bloodstained, once again carrying two daggers in exactly the way, the same hand that he was holding them in the night before, and this time in front of everyone, she short-circuits and has her epileptic seizure. From that moment on, she can't bear him to touch her: the only willing contact she endures with him is when he kisses her during the coronation scene.

Plotting Banquo's murder: Sean strolls around the stage, taking his time, and doffing the crown as though "off duty". I noticed that after the blackout he remembered to pick the crown up off the desk before walking off.
"Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck..." Sean always gets a sardonic laugh from the audience when he speaks of Duncan - "After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well..." - before I saw this production I never quite connected with this line. Sean brings out the self-pitying quality of the murderer who wants to believe that he has done his victim a favour - "Oh, it's all right for him...but poor little me, I have still to cope with all this stuff...". This is, as I understand, what murderers really tell themselves.

The dreadful dinner party: I fear for that dinner table. If he doesn't vault right over it, Sean opts to roll energetically around on it among the silverware. As other fans have observed, afterwards he is clearly looking for some conjugal comfort from Mrs M. and hasn't had any since before the night of Duncan's murder. It is hardly surprising he is so glad to see the comely Weird Sisters. This interpretation may strike some critics as trite: I think it brings the whole story closer to the audience's own level of experience.

The final act: Sean's handling of the poor "cream-faced loon" raised a lot of laughs last Saturday. His handling of the whole act seems so much more assured and confident it is hard to put a finger on any one point. Is it just the fact he has slowed down? The way he crumbles on being told "The Queen is dead"? Alas, I am not a skilled enough critic to say.

The number of curtain calls has gone up to three, Sean gives Sam Bond a tender kiss and an equally tender pat on the back as they walk off - and it was charming to see him also give the smaller of the two child actors a broad wink and grin as they stepped forward.

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