Macbeth – Review
There were moments when it seemed like the latest Quentin Tarantino film. Every time a new character appeared on the set, I had to mentally brace myself for their lurid, untimely and above all bloody death. At one point it was literally raining blood.
But then, this is Macbeth. And if history is to be believed, that’s what life was like. Blood and battle were the norm for the ruling classes when the real Macbeth murdered King Duncan to take the Scottish throne.
Yet this production is especially shocking to the modern eye because Jamie Lloyd brings the action into the present. The scenery by Soutra Gilmour is apocalyptic, with shattered pains of glass overhead and ugly gratings in the floor. The audience are on both sides of the action, right in among the raggedy mob.
We are led to believe that these are normal people gone feral. The Macbeths are out for what they can get and are soon up to their elbows in blood. It’s not an easy concept to buy into but as the bodies pile up, James McAvoy emerges as an outstanding Macbeth, peaking explosively at the dinner party where Banquo’s bloody apparition appears.
The sheer force of Shakespeare’s words has by now transcended any backdrop as the half-mad, half-sane McAvoy gives a powerful portrait of a man whose mind is no longer supporting his actions, while his wife tries valiantly to make up for his deficiencies.
Lady Macbeth is an awkward character. One minute she’s a ruthlessly ambitious wife, the next she’s a guilt-ridden sleep-walker. Certainly Clare Fry leaves us in no doubt about Lady Macbeth’s bloody intentions and her chemistry with Macbeth is excellent.
Equally feisty, Lady Macduff (Allison McKenzie) is spirited and defiant throughout her well executed – if traumatic – death. Her son, played by various actors in view of his youth, dies bravely though in a slightly less graphic manner, a rare nod to the limits to which one can push a twenty-first century audience.
Macduff, played by Jamie Ballard, is out to avenge the crime, delivering superb emotion when he discovers the deaths of his wife and children. ‘If I am a real man, then I must feel like a real man’ he begins, leaving few dry eyes by the end.
Whilst a fringe production at present, a transfer to the West End seems a near certainty. A brilliant combination of stage acting combined with near-cinematic effects.
Overall verdict: 9/10
Trafalgar Studios, London until 27th April