Macbeth (3)

National TheatreI’m afraid this production has been widely panned by the critics (there’s a handy round-up here) and my comments are not massively going to buck the trend. And even worse, this is likely to be a kitchen sink review – throwing as many different thoughts together as the production team apparently did…


Photo by Brinkhoff and Moegenburg

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The rest is silence


I had a wonderful, unexpectedly quiet day on Friday, waiting for something to be delivered. The last time I was at home, the peace was somewhat disturbed by a neighbour practising his trumpet – The Entertainer and Christmas carols. In September. This time, perhaps helped by the fact it was cold enough not to have the windows open, I basked in glorious silence.

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It’s called *the* Scottish play, because there are no others…


The Penny Dreadfuls’ alternative history of Macbeth (broadcast on Radio 4 on Saturday 13th December) is absolutely hilarious – it’s more about righting the wrongs of Shakespeare’s idiosyncratic history (and how everyone thinks it’s accurate!) than about being a direct parody, but the porter, and a witch, do make appearances. And, mainly, it’s brilliant. My favourite line is:

“I love a wedding. Everyone looks smart and a woman gets traded. It so romantic.”

I think this link will work worldwide, the BBC are pretty generous like that…




25th November 2014

A non-traditional production this – billed as an “outdoor/indoor promenade performance” on Clapham Common and in the Omnibus arts centre, we took in paths (and confused joggers), paddling pools (mercifully drained) and a variety of rooms with wonderfully minimalist sets (I do wonder if they’ll ever get all the leaf-dust out of the carpet…).

To be fair, it doesn't say "No secret, black, and midnight hags"...

To be fair, it doesn’t say “No secret, black, and midnight hags”…

I keep on re-writing this review because I can’t seem to get my feelings across right – every time I write it, it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the show, and I really did! I thought it was intelligently acted and directed, making great use of an unusual set of spaces. I though the cast were cracking and really got to grips to with the language. Yes, some parts of the speeches early on got lost in the Common, but that was hardly unexpected, and anyone who doesn’t know what happens at the beginning of Macbeth is (1) unlikely to be going to a performance in Clapham Common and (2) can probably pick it up from what happens later on anyway.

The general mood was reminiscent of the James McAvoy version in 2012 – faintly futuristic dystopian, lots of knitwear and cargo trousers. Apparently this was a coincidence – my sister was talking to the producer afterwards and she said she hadn’t seen it – and the story does lend itself to the bleak, vaguely modern outlook – after all, the only scenes we see are blasted heaths and castles… And maybe it was the fact I had seen that production so recently (well, in the last three years) that meant I didn’t quite get fully into this one – I seemed always to be waiting for the bits I knew were coming up rather than losing myself in the moment.

The cast was small – there was a certain amount of doubling up of roles, which I am childish enough to admit always gives me the giggles, particularly when Banquo turned back up as Seyton to tell Macbeth that his wife was dead. If I were him, I’m not sure I would have believed it… There weren’t any famous names – nor even anyone I semi-remembered from an old TV show – which does rather bring home how unrewarding a profession acting must be when I think about how many people seem to be trying to make it professionally (and of course I only see the ones who are doing OK).

As I said above, I thought the cast were all – without exception – very good. The few nit-picks I had were: Lady Macbeth had an unhealthy obsession with showing anguish by kneeling on the floor (you can take physicality too far), you could almost hear the actor playing Macbeth thinking “here comes my great soliloquy, I’m going to act the shit out of it” – although to be fair he usually did, and I thought the girl playing Ross was a bit underused (but then she came across as very nice, which does make the casting in Macbeth somewhat of a challenge).

Some parts I thought worked absolutely brilliantly – the subtle use of different strobe lights to convey different parts of the castle (although an over-reliance on flickering lights as an indicator of drama did leave me with a headache). The subtly-played changing levels of attraction/sexual tension between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The notion that Campari would be the only aperitif available – truly the end of the world…

This is the very painting of your fear


Well it’s nearly Halloween, and that can only mean one thing. Staying indoors and eating all the sweets you bought “for trick-or-treaters”…

On the other hand, since I have just finished re-reading Wyrd Sisters, Macbeth is muchly on my mind. I think this has to be the most creepy – and the most supernaturally charged – of Shakespeare’s plays*.

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