Macbeth – review

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre presents
by William Shakespeare
Director Iqbal Khan

IMG_3335The theme of Artistic Director Emma Rice’s inaugural season at The Globe is ‘wonder’ and that is certainly the overriding emotion following a red hot August afternoon performance of Macbeth. Unfortunately, that is wonder in the sense of puzzlement over several of Iqbal Khan’s directorial choices (“confusion now hath made his masterpiece …”).

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are one of Shakespeare’s most infamous and power-hungry double acts, and generally acknowledged as childless. However, wonder hangs in the oft-used dry ice right from the start when a small boy witnesses the wyrd sisters in a Frankensteinesque reconstruction of a fallen warrior’s limbs. The boy then occasionally appears with Lady Macbeth – is he their ghost child, a phantom pregnancy? But he is apparently visible to others, so, a real-child? Is he even theirs? This is never explained and distracts.

Jocelyn Pook’s music adds chills and atmosphere, although some of the wyrd sisters’ words are sung, and again, does not aid understanding (and has “double, double toil and trouble” been cut, nowhere to be heard?).

Ray Fearon is a commanding Macbeth – masculine, muscular and convincing in his commitment to his wife, played by Tara Fitzgerald. Hers is a patchier performance, not always clear in delivery but arresting and emotional in her downfall. Together, they share a clutch of clinches but their chemistry sparks rather than burns.

Macbeth references have been centre stage in the media recently, what with Lady McGove and the post-Brexit bloodletting.  Nadia Albina brings the current political climate into sharper focus with a bawdy and bold turn in the Porter’s scene; she draws big laughs from the audience and a long applause when Trump is ‘taken down’. Fun, but a little odd within the context of the play.

IMG_3336Ciaran Bagnall (set and lighting designer) and Joan O’Clery (costume designer) have created, according to Khan, “an abstract” design, “which suggests ancient and modern, the tribal and the primitive”.

A dark and brooding atmosphere is hard to create on The Globe’s open stage, however, it is certainly industrial looking, with black ironwork and filigree detail echoed in Lady MacBeth’s sumptuous velvet and lace gown.  Banquo’s ghost scene is effective as he rises and falls via a ‘smoke and mirror’ technique, stretched fabric replacing the mirror.  Special mention also to Kevin McCurdy for some unpleasantly realistic-looking fight scenes.

Great use of exits and entrances amongst the groundlings and a little audience participation help relieve the discomfort of an almost 3 hour production (less 20 minute interval).

This was my first visit to The Globe. A thrilling space, as near to the Tudor experience as I imagine one can get (although glad I wasn’t standing and would also recommend the 21st century cop out cushion hire for £1).

New takes on a well known, well-loved play give mixed results.

At Globe Theatre, London until 1 October

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