Olivier, National Theatre – until 23 June 2018
I’ve seen and studied a fair few Shakespeare plays but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in any form. I do, however, know what I like when going to the theatre and recognise brilliant acting when I see it. The National Theatre’s current production of Macbeth does have brilliant acting, but overall it just didn’t do it for me.
Walking into the wonderful Olivier Theatre, we are greeted with an almost bare stage, there are four poles with ragged, witchy fabric attached to the top; in the centre there is a sloped wooden platform decorated with severed limbs from plastic baby toys.
Rae Smith’s minimalistic set works well with the sparse life of the characters within the show; with them all (including Duncan and Macbeth) looking as though they’re on the poverty line in muddy, battered clothes.
Rory Kinnear is thoughtful and suitably plagued as Macbeth; his small comedic moments are particularly enjoyable and he proves why he’s such an esteemed actor.
The choice to make Alana Ramsey’s Murderer a fishnet tights-clad alcoholic is a great one and she works very well to show the extent to which people will go to when they feel they have nothing, just to get their fix or some quick cash.
Trevor Fox’s alcoholic Porter is like a ghost moving around, silently hearing all the secrets he shouldn’t know. It’s refreshing to see him as a more serious, important character rather than mainly being onstage for comedic relief. This darker side sees him become the metaphor for the gates of hell, something which I feel is often missed in productions of Macbeth.
It’s Anne-Marie Duff who steals the show as Lady Macbeth. Every movement is clearly well thought out and her transition from the headstrong wife who lacks humanity to the crumbling woman plagued by ghosts is striking.
I didn’t find anything specifically wrong with this production, I just didn’t really feel, well, anything. It’s not scary, it’s not particularly gory, it’s not emotional and it’s not funny, it’s just a bit uninspiring. There are elements which have brought Shakespeare’s play into the modern world but the emotions didn’t translate for a modern audience… at least for me.
If you’re a Shakespeare fan then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go and judge Rufus Norris’ Macbeth for yourself but if not then I wouldn’t rush along, as I don’t think this is the production to make you a fan.