Paradise in the Vault, Edinburgh
I don’t have much luck in this basement venue. I once saw a one-star one-man show here with an audience of seven, five of whom left part-way through. At a time when the political tussles over who should steer Scotland make Macbeth so ripe for contemporary contextualising, it seems something of a waste to set this three-handed version in an English young offenders’ institution.
It starts strongly and you can see the ‘who’s the daddy’ battle lines drawn between Macbeth and Macduff as though Ray Winstone himself were in the room with a billiard ball in a sock, but then it loses both its way and its impact as the young actors struggle to delineate enough of the ancillary characters.
Some scenes do work: the witches’ warning to Macbeth that he must slay Macduff’s family, and the ‘damned spot’ handwashing are clear enough, but once Burnham Wood catches fire the whole enterprise has collapsed into indistinction.
Occasionally we lurch into a gay disco with magenta lighting where 20-ear old Josh Beecham’s realistically driven Macbeth snorts coke before a soliloquy: but the production’s clutching at straws as well as unseen daggers when this isn’t fully stitched into the rest of the narrative.
Although the setting is modern, the text remains resolutely 1611 and the cast cling too closely to the phrasing of the blank verse with its line breaks and punctuated by frequent stabbing palm gestures, rather than an ability to share their understanding of the dialogue with the audience. And some mis-placements of emphasis are just plain O-Level wrong.
If there is an external director, this is where he or she didn’t earn their fee.
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