A few days ago I saw both Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London so I thought I’d do some theatre reviews for the first time ever! Both Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are part of the Wonder Season which celebrates 400 years since Shakespeare’s death in 1616. This is the review for Macbeth only and I’ll review Dream later today.
Images are linked to the Shakespeare’s Globe website.
Macbeth, directed by Iqbal Khan
Running until 1st October 2016
A brave Scottish general named Macbeth receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the Scottish throne for himself.
I’ve always loved Macbeth but this is the first time that I’ve ever seen it performed live. I’ve watched film versions before though including the 2015 version featuring Michael Fassbender as Macbeth. There are so many iconic scenes in the play, from the witches to Lady Macbeth’s insomnia, and I was thoroughly looking forward to immersing myself in Macbeth’s world.
There were so many amazing aspects to Khan’s interpretation of Macbeth and the atmosphere he managed to create is one of them. The atmosphere was tense and almost uncomfortable in places which was perfect for a play which includes regicide but this was often cut through by shots of humour and audience participation. The set and costumes were just fantastic. The costumes weren’t modern but they weren’t doublet and hose either. Lady Macbeth was perhaps the only character that looked like she was from the medieval or early modern period but the other costumes really worked as they gave the allusion of medieval Scotland without committing to wearing traditional costumes. I do applaud every actor who was performing on the 30th of August though because it was incredibly hot in London, a member of the audience fainted within about 20 minutes of the play starting, and they must have been very uncomfortable in their layered costumes. The set design was simplistic but dark and it added to the atmosphere of the play without distracting from the action. The uses of props was fantastic, especially for the witches who used a piece of black fabric and puppets to great effect as they tortured Macbeth with otherworldly things.
Act four, scene three was oddly hilarious as Macduff attempted to sate Malcolm’s lust by pointing out how many ‘willing dames enough’ were in the audience. The humour was made more prominent through Malcolm’s line ‘I am yet/Unknown to woman’ later in the scene when the actor, Freddie Stewart, added ‘I said yet’ after the audience laughed at his admission.
Lady Macbeth, played by Tara Fitzgerald, was also very funny in the beginning as she is strong and self-assured compared to Macbeth who often doubts himself. Her humour came through in lines such as ‘Your face, my thane, is as a book where men/May read strange matters’ where she mocks her husband and in a scene when she ‘fake-laughs’ at one of Duncan’s jokes while they’re all off-stage, interrupting Macbeth’s musings. However, Fitzgerald made the transition between strong and funny to troubled and hysterical seamlessly and she really added to the tension within the play through her final scene when she is caught admitting to the murder of Duncan in her sleep while she continuously washes the blood from her hands. Lady Macbeth is one of my favourite Shakespearean women and I was so glad that Fitzgerald captured so many different aspects of her character within one performance.
The best scene in the whole play was the Porter’s scene. There was a minor change to the speech as the Porter added in the second name of the Devil…
knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s
name? Trump! Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could
swear in both the scales against either scale;
who committed treason enough for God’s sake,
yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come
Yes, Donald Trump is the devil’s other name and this was such a simple and unobtrusive way of bringing the play into the present day. It added to the Porter’s scene rather than distracting from it. The actress who played the Porter, Nadia Albina, was incredibly engaging and very witty and I’d suggest going to see Macbeth just to witness Nadia Albina as the Porter.
The only thing that I didn’t like about the play was that the prophecies spoken by the witches were unintelligible because they were sang. You had to rely on Macbeth and Banquo repeating the prophecies later in the play to understand what the witches had said. Plus, I had a few young boys sat behind me who were very disappointed when they didn’t get to hear ‘Double, double toil and trouble;/Fire burn, and cauldron bubble’ which is one of the most famous lines that Shakespeare ever wrote. I was disappointed too because I was looking forward to that bit.
One final aspect of the play that I’m going to discuss is the child that is often present on stage. The child is obviously meant to represent a child between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth even though they don’t have any children in the play. The child is also dressed more modernly than the other characters and only ever seems to interact with Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. However, at the end, when Malcolm has been crowned King of Scotland, the child sits on the throne and the other characters stare at the child. I’m still trying to work out what Khan intended the child to represent as it just wasn’t obvious at all and the character of the child is definitely open to interpretation.
Verdict: 4/5 – Wonderful acting and clever staging is almost let down by the odd wailing of the wyrd sisters.
Well, that was my first theatre review. I’ll be reviewing A Midsummer Night’s Dream later today so look out for that!
Unfortunately, I don’t go to the theatre often enough to make this a regular feature on my blog but I wish I did.