The politics may be clumsy but the acting is beautiful at the National Theatre. Make no mistake, Rory Kinnear is a magnificent Macbeth.
Yet somehow, I’m not quite buying it. We are used to gore and nasty things hung on trees and lots beheadings, ever since the technology for reproducing actors’ heads improved. Fine. But unlike the Hytner Othello – set in a modern army camp – or his Hamlet in a recognizable police-state, the misery-world evoked here gives no sense that there ever were nobilities to be breached by the Macbeths. It’s just chaos, and you expect no better.
It’s a clever idea by Richard Bean, to envision a story set when Karl Marx was an impecunious migrant living in the ‘squalor’ of Dean Street in Soho, caught between the pawnbrokers and the bailiff in a hand to mouth existence, and to pair him with his future political ally Friedrich Engels in a sort of knockabout turn like Morecambe and Wise, with a sidelong glance at the actual Marx Brothers.