26 November 2002
Edward Hall's "Macbeth" at the
Albery is a bitter, black and bloody triumph. It takes its mood
from that of its star, Sean Bean, a brooding, dispossessed figure
wonderfully in touch with his young audience and superbly able
to convert his contemporary screen presence to prehistoric Scotland.
True, the accent is more Sheffield than Scots, but what he and Hall realize is that of all Shakespeare's plays, "Macbeth" is best suited to being treated as a modern movie of madness and mayhem. We also get the current Bond movie Moneypenny herself, Samantha Bond (as a sexy, sympathetic Lady Macbeth), and Julian Glover bringing some classic Royal Shakespeare Company dignity to the role of the doomed King, and then astonishingly, within seconds, doubling up as the old vaudeville Porter.
Anyone who remembers Hall's sequence of the Shakespeare history plays, "Rose Rage," will know what to expect here. As a director he moves swiftly and surely, editing the text where necessary and bringing the drama in well under the usual time, so it now lasts about as long as a two-hour video of blood and thunder.
The reasons that Hall (his father is Peter Hall, founding director of both the RSC and the National in its permanent home) is far and away the best classical director of his thirtysome-thing generation are all on show here. He has a superb sense of the sweep of Shakespearean drama, is able to bring it to a modern audience of limited attention span without condescending, patronizing or betraying the text. Above all, he draws out of a young and often inexperienced company performances of real vim and vigor.
Three gorgeous young women replace the usual old-crone witches, the cast dresses as for World War I and this is a fiery, frantic and flamboyant account of the most timeless of all thrillers. In a bad month for the British monarchy, we are here reminded that kingship has always been a dodgy business.
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