Theatre Review: Macbeth

Words: Ian Kingsbury
Thursday 24 January 2019
reading time: min, words

Fair is foul, and foul is fair in this radical restaging


Fair is foul, and foul is fair. With supernatural goings on, monstrous thoughts and murderous actions that overturn the natural order, it’s quite apt that this production has unsettled so many people. Despite a number of reviews I’ve seen which cry ‘foul’ over Rufus Norris’ radical restaging of Macbeth, I think this is a fairly decent National Theatre Production of ‘The Scottish Play’.

From the opening scene in which a soldier, soon revealed as Macbeth, runs onto an imposing ramp in the middle of a bleak, dystopian set to decapitate a rebel leader, an eerie, unsettling, claustrophobic tone is immediately established, which goes on to dominate this bloody tale of power, political ambition, paranoia and prophecy.

This production eschews the mise en scene of 11th century Scotland, instead placing the action in a low-lit post-apocalyptic set that’s somewhere between Mad Max and the underworld. I found the direction and staging quite refreshing and, from time to time, truly captivating – it certainly kept the attention of the predominantly GCSE-aged audience on the night I went.

True, this production might not be one for purists – the witches are pole-climbing, weirdly choregraphed creatures, the costumes are modern-day scavenger-chic, and the piped-in soundtrack is filmic and pervasive, but on the whole I found this to be a compelling adaptation with some captivating central performances, particularly from Michael Nardone as Macbeth and Kirsty Besterman as Lady Macbeth.

It’s bloody, it’s spooky, it’s unnatural. At times the performances at the centre of this grim, dismal world were wonderfully vivid. This adaptation might prove to be a little ‘Marmite’ in it’s effect, but I for one really enjoyed it’s out of time, out of place power.

The National Theatre’s Macbeth plays at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until Saturday 26 January 2019.

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