On in London
Macbeth - Roger Foss
The House of Windsor may be having bad dreams at the moment but a scandal over what the butler saw and who rogered the royal valet is a fairy tale told by an idiot, full of tabloid fury, signifying nothing compared to the dark forces behind Scotland's doomed clan Macbeth.
Shakespeare's unrelenting tragedy about a power-crazed couple intent on achieving the monarchy at whatever cost gets an infernal send-off in Ed Hall's fast and furious production at the Albery Theatre. The house lights suddenly switch off, thunder shakes you out of your seat and you are immediately plunged into a topography of terror - a moody, misty Celtic landscape where regicide and child murder rules, gore-covered ghosts turn up at official royal functions and the most desirable young Weird Sisters ever seen emerge from beneath the marital mattress to seduce the man who would be king.
Hall has cleverly edited the text, and some scenes are transposed to the Macbeth's bedroom, which means the story moves along like a bat out of hell and pure lust becomes the driving force behind the axis of evil between screen action man Sean Bean's visceral Macbeth and Samantha Bond, Miss Moneypenny herself, as his over-ambitious, oversexed wife.
Bean, in his first stage outing for 13 years, easily meets the challenge of playing the anguished criminal king. Paranoid, physically tough, angry-eyed, and with a steely flat-vowelled Sheffield accent that immediately marks him out as much lower in the social pecking order than his illustrious wife, Bean makes Macbeth's personal battle for destiny tough and tender enough to appeal to a Big Mac generation, While Bond's sexually stunning poise inevitably descends into insane sleepwalking in filthy underwear.
This crowd-pleasing, well-acted production, set in a kind of Balkanised Scotland where Big Ben is heard striking in the distance when affairs of state are discussed, will probably turn off Shakespeare purists. But it's terrific popular theatre all the same, and when Adrian Schiller's Himmler-like Malcolm finally surveys the Scottish scene, you wonder what horrors he will dream up to maintain power.
Thanks to Kathryn for typing this.
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