‘Falls a little flat in pivotal places’: MACBETH – Barbican Theatre ★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Barbican Theatre, London – until 18 January 2019

The ever fabulous Royal Shakespeare Company presents the ever epic Macbeth by William Shakespeare at the gorgeous Barbican Centre until January 2019, with none other than Christopher Eccleston (making his debut with the company) in the titular role. It should be an absolute blinder with such a strong and perfectly brooding lead… but unfortunately, the production falls a little flat in pivotal places.

Polly Findlay’s direction makes much use of Fly Davis’ sparse and contemporary staging (complete with a doomsday clock counting down to Macbeth’s demise) which is easily filled by quirky performances. Eccleston is obviously excellent, conniving and believably nutty, thrown into turmoil by three of the creepiest and cutest witches to ever grace the stage. This The Shining inspired turn adds a layer of shivers to the darkness with the matching and overtly ominous red dresses hard to miss.

Irish actress Niamh Cusack is the overbearing and ambitious Lady Macbeth, encouraging her husband to take what has been foreseen by the witches – a crown – with blood smeared every step of the way. Raphael Sowole brings an earthy and elegant edge to Banquo, the friend turned foe turned ghostly apparition.

RSC regular Edward Bennett’s Macduff stands out, especially with his painful and stunning moment of silence as his wife and children’s murders are unveiled: a breathtaking moment in a fast-paced performance where there is barely time to take a breath. It’s good to see Bennett playing serious so well after his charming and hilarious turn in 2016’s Christmas double dose of Shakespearean comedy at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

This production embraced the menacing malice of Macbeth, with the countdown clock most menacing of all, which was a shame given such a strong cast and creative team. Kate Waters’ fight direction between Macduff and Macbeth was thrilling, as was the awesome illusions by Chris Fisher, with Eccleston disappearing and appearing with ease. These moments, however, felt somewhat few and far between, even with only a two-hour duration. This left it all feeling somewhat lacklustre when compared to some of the absolutely incredible Shakespearean presentations that can grace our London stages.

Until 18th January 2019Reviewed by Heather DeaconPhoto by Richard Davenport (c) RSC

Jonathan Baz on Twitter
Jonathan Baz
Theatre critic Jonathan Baz is London-based but with a coverage that extends far beyond the capital to include regional theatre as well as occasional forays into Europe and the USA. He enjoys reviewing new writing as much as seeing fresh interpretations of well-known plays and musicals. Jonathan also sits on the judging panel of London's Off West End Awards ("the Offies") and has published numerous interviews and features with leading figures in the film and theatre world. Away from the arts, Jonathan is a practising Chartered Accountant with a number of clients in the entertainment industries. He blogs at www.jonathanbaz.com and tweets at @MrJonathanBaz.
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Jonathan Baz on Twitter
Jonathan Baz
Theatre critic Jonathan Baz is London-based but with a coverage that extends far beyond the capital to include regional theatre as well as occasional forays into Europe and the USA. He enjoys reviewing new writing as much as seeing fresh interpretations of well-known plays and musicals. Jonathan also sits on the judging panel of London's Off West End Awards ("the Offies") and has published numerous interviews and features with leading figures in the film and theatre world. Away from the arts, Jonathan is a practising Chartered Accountant with a number of clients in the entertainment industries. He blogs at www.jonathanbaz.com and tweets at @MrJonathanBaz.