Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Rufus Norris
Reviewer: Lu Greer
The National Theatre’s Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most popularly retold plays, tells the story of the aftermath of a ruinous civil war and the Macbeths being inexorably pulled towards the crown by forces of darkness.
The tone of the show is evident immediately from the set which is dominated by an enormous bridge in the centre and acts as the main entry and exit point for the cast as it swings across the stage. The rest of the staging is filled with hues of grey and black created from machine gun bunkers and abandoned offices, with lighting from Paul Pyant making excellent use of shadow by illuminating only what is necessary. Complementing the staging, the costume department – borrowing rather too heavily from the Mad Max and Walking Dead franchises – are greyscale layers of torn leather and duct tape. The costumes (Moritz Junge) add to the setting of the piece and create a further sense of the dystopia but feel almost caricature in their design at times.
If this combination of visual effects weren’t enough to set the scene for the audience, Macbeth’s nightmare vision filled with infant masks reminiscent of Trainspotting and the slaughtering of Lady Macduff should be enough to clearly demark this show from Shakespeare’s original. It is indeed in this final Lady Macduff (Lisa Zahra) scene which the audience is given the strongest performance of the night as Zahra’s Lady Macduff cries out for her murdered children with sobs which are genuinely affecting for those watching.
While Joseph Brown and Kirsty Besterman showcase Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s ruthless ambition and their toxic relationship convincingly, there is a limit to what they are able to do with the dialogue they have. So much attention has been given to the post-apocalyptic setting of this reimagining, that the timeless script is forced to suffer. So many lines of Shakespeare’s Macbeth are laden with double meanings and hidden motives, but here much of it is delivered in an almost static manner which allows for no reading beyond the most basic and takes away from the audience’s gaze into Macbeth’s mind as he begins to lose it.
This is a visually impressive show which delivers the lines Shakespeare gives. What it is missing though, is the depth of the characters which originally created such a compelling play leading to it being one of Shakespeare’s most performed, and possibly the play most synonymous with Scotland as a whole.
Runs Until: 3 November 2018 | Image: Contributed