by William Shakespeare
now playing at the Albery Theatre
Director, Edward Hall, gives us a spellbinding production with a new slant.
I won't spoil the surprise but suffice to say that half the audience screamed at the start of the play and thereafter the pace rarely slackens.
Visually it's stunning and there are many inspired touches of direction. For instance, I loved Hall's treatment of the weird sisters who appear and disappear almost by magic, sometimes as hags and sometimes as sirens, luring and goading Macbeth to his doom, cleverly reflecting the sexual hold Lady Macbeth exercises over him in order to do her bidding.
Macbeth (charismatically played by Sean Bean) enters wearing a long sleeved black string vest (a disco dancing must in the early eighties), sparkly armour and combats (chacun son goût). At first I was slightly thrown by Macbeth's thick Yorkshire accent ("Eh up Banquo, canst thou see t'witch?") but then I thought that maybe he was born Scottish but taken as a child slave during a boarder skirmish and so grew up in Yorkshire but returned to bonny Scotland on becoming a man. And what a man! I don't care how many people he kills in cold blood - this Macbeth is a hunk.
Lady Macbeth (stunningly played by Samantha Bond) in sharp contrast has a cut glass accent and a wardrobe full of stunning dresses. Aha! Didst this Macbeth marry above himself? Thus making this production a stage version of LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER but set a couple of years into the marriage when the bit of rough aspect is starting to wane and Lady Chatterley, er, I mean Lady Macbeth is now starting to hanker for a more spacious castle and luxurious soft furnishings. Hence her kick arse attitude when it comes to murdering Duncan. Mellors, er, sorry I mean Macbeth and Lady M make a handsome couple with a strong sexual pull but nothing can save the marriage after Macbeth commits the unforgivable faux pas of embarrassing his wife at a dinner party. It's so difficult when one marries out of one's class.
In an attempt not to place this production in any particular period a dizzying array of military uniforms are used. I have to confess to not being too familiar with the play so I immediately assumed that Duncan (played by Julian Glover) was a baddy simply because he was dressed like Mussolini. His son, Malcolm (played by Adrian Schiller) reminded me of Herr Flick. Macbeth progressed from his lucky string vest to the black leather SS look. Banquo had the Afghan rebel look going on but scrubbed up nicely in time for the banquet (think Tom Cruise in A FEW GOOD MEN) and by the end of the play Macduff had managed to enlist the help of the SAS.
I thoroughly enjoyed this production. Hall has brought something new and electric to this play. My only quibble is that sometimes the diction was overshadowed by the visual. I felt Bean underplayed his monologues. Maybe because of his film/telly experience he was worried about looking stagey but I would have liked to see him crank it up a few notches.
Another touch that didn't work for me was when Malcolm puked up on stage. There was a loud "Errrrr!" from the audience which broke the dramatic tension somewhat and instead of listening to the action I then found myself worrying about somebody slipping on it during the coronation.
Also, why was the only character with a Scottish accent the drunk Porter? I've noticed that Shakespeare's comic characters are often played with regional accents. This always makes my friends from the north mutter. That said, Julian Glover is wonderful as the Rab C. Nesbittesque Porter.
A very exciting production. Visually stunning.
Reviewed by Sarah Monaghan for Theatreworld
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