Our theatre critic Mark Shenton on the play often regarded as the younger actor's Everest...
Don't mention Macbeth!
By all means tell an actor to break a leg - just don't wish him good luck, especially if he's playing Macbeth. (And while you're at it, make sure you don't whistle - or knit - backstage).
Actors are an unnaturally superstitious lot - but never more so than when it comes to The Scottish Play.
If the name is accidentally spoken in a dressing room, tradition requires that the speaker leaves the room, turns round three times anti-clockwise (as if to turn back time), and then knocks on the door three times to request permission to return!
Macbeth continues to be regarded as an unlucky play; but the acting challenge it sets proves so irresistible that the play is often the younger actor's Everest - to be ascended along with Hamlet - along an acting road that leads eventually to King Lear.
It's also an example of a Shakespeare play that continues to have the kind of commercial potential that guarantees a West End revival.
Now that the RSC no longer has a permanent London home of any kind, the door is open for more commercial packaging.
And once more unto this breach has duly stepped Edward Hall (son of RSC founder Sir Peter), who earlier this year brought a compressed double bill of Shakespeare's three Henry VI plays to the Haymarket.
The Macbeth that now follows at the Albery contains several of what are now fast becoming his trademark tactics: lots of stage blood and use of spotlights, machine guns, fire and fighting.
It's an urgent - if sometimes wearying - contemporary style, and Hall provides a pin-up Macbeth at its centre in the shapely, chiselled shape of Sean Bean.
One puzzle: though Macbeth aspires to, and becomes, the King of Scotland, Bean's accent is pure north England!
There's quite a sexual charge in his transactions
with Samantha Bond's Lady M that also raise the temperature, and
even if the production is not a complete success, it certainly
doesn't succumb to the supposed curse of the play.
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