Review - Macbeth


Is this a review which I see before me? Tony Cross went to Shakespeare's "Scottish play" at The Globe Theatre...

Good grief that was awful. Well, that’s unfair. It wasn’t awful. There were some excellent performances and well-played scenes but have two good actors ever been so bad in such great parts as Ray Fearon (Macbeth) and Tara Fitzgerald (Lady Macbeth)? I don’t blame the actors. I have seen them in enough things to know that they are good actors. I can only blame the director Iqbal Khan who seems to have decided that the Macbeths need to start from the edge of sanity and move upwards from there. It means that by the time Lady Macbeth gets to her sleepwalking scene there’s nowhere for her to go. She’s been barking from the beginning. And Macbeth is so shouty and one-note that there’s no softness there, no vulnerability. Just volume.

One of the tragedies of Macbeth is that they’re a happily married couple when the play begins, even if they’ve just lost a baby. With each murder they unravel. The end justifies the means. But underneath it they were two good people who are haunted by what they’ve done. It could be said to be a play about post-traumatic stress disorder.

In this version though none of that comes across. We start over-the-top and end with a tale, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Absolutely nothing.

It’s also had all the poetry hammered out of it. This is Macbeth in prose. There’s no rhythm. Just noise. The poetry helps the clarity and it is no coincidence that one of the people I was with – who is on her fourth Macbeth – said that she found it harder to follow than any other Macbeth she’d seen. Even though she knew the play well.

Patrick Troughton once despairingly called theatre ‘all that shouting in the evening’ and that quote could describe this production perfectly. Or at least some of it.

I’ve been harsh to Fearon – who still has his moments – and Fitzgerald – who doesn’t – but as I said earlier I blame the director who seems to be one of those people who thinks his audience need poking with a stick to understand what’s going on. That subtlety is a threat. So the text makes it clear that Lady Macbeth lost a child. Iqbal decides that this child needs to have physical form. So the boy walks on and off stage. Why? What’s the point?

Khan also decides, for reasons, to have four witches not three. But keeps the line as ‘we three witches’. For reasons. I’ve seen three other Macbeth’s and this was the one that didn’t work at all for me. It was shouty, clunky and costumed at random. Perhaps it was a mistake to see it in the daylight. Macbeth is surely a play for dark & stormy nights.

It’s not all bad. A lot of the supporting performances are excellent. Nadia Albina was brilliant as the Porter – as she had been brilliant in The Merchant of Venice I saw last year at the RSC, Elizabeth Andrewartha as Ross, Scarlett Brookes as Lady McDuff, Sam Cox as Duncan, Jermaine Dominique as Banquo, Jacob Lloyd-Fortune as Macduff, Kerry Gooderson in various roles and Freddie Stewart as Malcolm are all excellent. Indeed, the best scenes in this production are those without the leads in. Duncan and McDuff’s discussion about Scotland leading up to McDuff’s ‘all my pretty ones’ line (which is a line by which I judge all productions of Macbeth btw) is excellent. McDuff’s wife and child discussing McDuff’s flight is exceptionally well-played because there’s variation in tone and delivery. It’s not all shouting, spitting rage. It seems strange that the best performances come mainly from the most junior of actors.

The thing is I love the Globe. I’ve seen some exceptional performances there, which is why this being such a dud was such as shock. Macbeth is – just about – my favourite Shakespeare play but this is the worst production of it I’ve ever seen, but I’ve only seen four live (and one film), so perhaps I’m being harsh. But I think because it is the Globe, I’m more disappointed than anything else.

Image - The Globe

If you want to go and see if it really is that bad, you can find more info and book tickets here.