Macbeth - Reviews - BBC Online (2)

Last Update: 17 November 20002

Source: BBC Online
October 2002
Katy Lewis

"Bloody, bold and resolute!"

Fair is foul and Sean Bean is most definitely fair! A Tuesday night in Milton Keynes and Katy Lewis struggles with her professional integrity!

Six years of study, two degrees in English Literature, and the desperate desire to be the Michael Billington of the Beds, Herts and Bucks Web site, versus the fact that Sean Bean is one of the sexiest men on the planet.

While I spent the whole play thinking about the interpretation of the themes, my thoughts were often interupted by the fact that Sean spent a lot of time in leather! And a natty little black mesh number - and at one stage, no top at all! Hurrah!

Here's what happened:

Passion, eroticism, sexual tension - it's all there in the play, as Shakespeare presents to his audience, moral choices and the seductive lure of power. But this is probably the first time that I have seen it performed with all of those themes so much to the fore.

This is almost entirely due to the superb acting skills of, and the chemistry between, Sean Bean as Macbeth and Samantha Bond as Lady Macbeth. In their stormy and physical relationship, the electrifying and ultimately destructive sexual tension between the two is palpable.

For as Macbeth goes on his murderous spree, spurred on by his ambitious bully of a wife, it is clear that her power over him is rooted in sex and that power is indeed a strong aphrodisiac.

It is the weird sisters that first unleash this passion with their prophecy. Instead of the stereotypical 'old hags' that you normally see, these three are young and slinky and sing to him hypnotically with the voices of angels. The first indication that ambition might be sexy!

Their appearance also drums home other themes such as appearances are not always what they seem.

Then after the interval, Sean Bean appears stripped to the waist. The weird sisters writhe around him, imparting their latest prophecy - it's nothing short of erotic!

In addition, the first scene where Macbeth and his Lady are together is incredibly sensual and Samantha Bond is an excellent partner. She is clearly an equal in what seems to be a thoroughly modern relationship.

Sometimes, seeing a famous film or TV star transporting their skills to the stage can be disappointing as the genre are very different. Not so with Sean Bean.

Macbeth's tortured soliloquies focus on the implications of what he has done for his soul. He doesn't enjoy his crimes like Richard III and he's not as philosophical as Hamlet, his are sensory and increasingly irrational.

Bean plays it brilliantly, perfectly establishing the turmoil of Macbeth's mind as he descends into a kind of madness. But he's not worn down and defeated, he's just pretty pee'd off that after all the trouble he's gone to, and all the stress of committing practically every crime under the sun, things still haven't gone to plan.

The ensemble played their parts on a set that perfectly created the right atmosphere. The general picture is dark and desolate but some stunning lighting design eerily lights some scenes with a much brighter white light - giving it a very supernatural feel. This fits in with the play's themes of contrast between reality and the supernatural and how appearances can be deceptive.

I am reluctant to say that this was a modern dress production because there was a mixture between the old and the new.

The male costumes were generally military, and then men used both swords and guns. Meanwhile the dresses had a 40s feel to them while still managing to look period. The whole effect was a truely timeless feel - just like the themes.

Oh yes, and there's also a lot (and I mean a lot) of blood! This, together with pyrotechnics, some strobe lighting and gunfire effects, incredibly realistic fight scenes and great acting meant that as the lights came up at the end, I realised that I must have been holding my breath for the whole of the second half!

There are many lessons to be learned from Macb, not least of which is putting your faith in people who purport to reveal your fate - even if they do look young and sexy! Remember that before giving your cash to a fortune teller!

The conclusion - well, if you love Shakespeare and are more than a bit partial to Sean, then what more could you want?! A top (and thought provoking of course) night out.

It's a tale - NOT told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying quite a lot really! Bloody, bold and resolute - I think I'll be going again - to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow!





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