As most children of my generation I was introduced to Shakespeare at school, whilst studying for my O-level in English Literature.
I remember being handed a red, dog-eared copy of Macbeth complete with a previous pupils scribbled notes in pencil in the margins, and thinking what the heck is this? It wasn’t even written in English, well not the English I recognised. It was a world away from the Cathy&Clare problems page found in my copy of “Jackie” magazine.
Our young enthusiastic English teacher thought that experiencing a live production of Macbeth would help our understanding of this work.
I was doubtful that anything on this planet would help me to get to grips with this Scottish play, but as I really liked my teacher, I found myself on the school mini bus heading towards Coventry’s Belgrade theatre. That evening a red dog-eared book came to life. Ever since Macbeth has been my favourite Shakespeare play. I have seen many productions in various locations.
As a result of the Beast from the East meeting storm Emma, which created weather history in the UK, we found ourselves heading to London a day earlier than planned. By sheer luck we were able to purchase preview tickets for the National Theatre’s production of Macbeth at the Olivier theatre. So wrapped up against the elements we headed towards Southbank.
Directed by Rufus Norris, this production relays the tragic story of Macbeth in a way that is both dark and petrifying. Imogen Knight’s choreography creates unique witches, one runs around the stage willow the whisp like, whilst others walk as if on a treadmill.
At one point all three climbed up flag poles and sat there amongst the dark shiny streamers that replaced the heraldry banners, ghostly spectators of the scene being played below them.
By combining ramps, spares metal furniture, bunker type structures & half unpacked suitcases, Rae Smith has designed a set that transports the viewer into Armageddon.
As the heavy backdrop of black streamers slowly fall to the floor, the wrinkle choosing sound it made added to the eerie atmosphere.
Costumes designed by Morhz Junge add to the productions apocalyptic feel. Apart from members of the royal family who were dressed in red, all of the other characters were dressed in dark colours. Many of them including lady Macbeth wore tight jeans an army boots.
James Farncomb has used low lighting to create visual effects of a war, grim, barren landscape. The use of a spotlight on the main characters as they delivered their solo speeches was very effective, drawing the viewer into the characters inner thoughts.
Ann Marie Duff gives a strong performance as Lady Macbeth, creating a believable character with a modern day edge, which fitted perfectly into this production. When she descends into madness she made me feel nothing but sorrow for this woman who has lost everything.
The outstanding scene in this production for me was the haunting of Macbeth by Banquo – Rory Kinnear as Macbeth shone and I felt his fear.
I found this production of Macbeth very refreshing as the cast were a mixture of ages, abilities, cultures, women played roles traditionally cast to men and a large number of the cast had regional accents.
For me this reflects the society we live in and enhances my belief that theatre is for everyone.
It was interesting listening to the audience during the interval with my gin and tonic that not all of them shared my views. Comments overheard were; “I like my Shakespeare more traditional ”, “the use of regional accents is too distracting”.
In this production of Macbeth the National has created a piece of work that is different and not for everyone. Bravo to them for challenging and dividing opinions. If we all liked the same thing wouldn’t theatre be boring?
Macbeth runs at the National Theatre until September 2018 when it then embarks on a national tour and will be at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton. Macbeth is also being screened live at cinemas on the 10th May as part of the National Theatre Live season.
Theatretastic rating 3/5:
Our pre-theatre choice before our visit to the National was The Archduke.