In this fast-paced RSC production of Macbeth, set in the current day, director Polly Findlay quickly transports the viewer into Shakespeare’s “darkest psychological thriller”.
We were unable to purchase tickets for the theatre and were delighted to be given the opportunity to watch Macbeth as part of the Showcase Live event programme.
It is fantastic that event cinema can transport the audience to the live world of theatre. On our entrance into the cinema screen we were given a colourful information sheet containing all the information about the production. The sheet informed us of the cast and creative team of Macbeth in addition to details of future live RSC broadcasts at Showcase cinemas. On entering the auditorium, a member of staff asked audience members if they needed assistance locating their seats, which we found very helpful and made the experience feel very similar to the theatre experience. Our local Showcase even sold ice-cream in the auditorium in the interval which was very convenient, particularly for older members of the audience. The entire experience didn’t feel like the usual trip to the cinema.
In this unique version of Macbeth, the role of the porter is central to the plot. The porter is usually a background character, however the porter, portrayed very convincingly as a sinister individual by Michael Hodgson, remains on the stage throughout the production, sitting in the background as a witness to the evil deeds of the Macbeths. Each death that Macbeth is responsible for is recorded by the porter with a single chalk mark on the back wall of the set. He appears in various scenes using a carpet sweeper, indicating to the viewer that he is clearing up the mess left behind by the murderous Macbeths.
The three “weird sisters” are played by three girls of primary school age. All are dressed in polka dot pyjamas, speaking in unison whilst clutching a plastic doll. For me personally, there is nothing that sends shivers down my spine like a child cast in a supernatural role; this has been used so effectively by directors of horror films for many years.
Fly Davis’s stage design includes a large digital clock displayed high on the back wall of the stage. This is set by the porter and begins to count down from the point of Duncan’s murder. The countdown ends when Macbeth is slain where the clock is then reset.
Throughout the production, after each major speech, key quotes from the text of Macbeth appear on a screen above the stage, which was very effective and added to the contemporary feel. Costumes also designed by Fly Davis fit well with the production, particularly those worn by Lady Macbeth who was resplendent in various couture gowns.
Christopher Eccleston, making his RSC debut, gave a solid down-to-earth performance as the troubled Macbeth. Niamh Cusack’s portrayal of lady Macbeth is one of the best performances I have personally seen by an actress in this role. Her portrayal of a woman descending into madness was delivered with great sensitivity and conviction.
The highlight of the production for me was Edward Bennett’s portrayal of Macduff’s grief on discovering his family have been killed by Macbeth. I had tears in my eyes as I felt this man’s pain and heartache.
For us, this production and its visual effects worked wonderfully on the big screen. The music composed by Rupert Cross helped to create a sinister, tense atmosphere in the auditorium. I appreciate this production will not be to everyone’s taste, but if you like Shakespeare in a modern setting this may be something you will enjoy. As for me I love Macbeth and the RSC, so it was a perfect combination.
We thoroughly enjoy these live cinema events and it was good to see that many people in the nearly full auditorium felt the same way. We heard many positive comments about the Macbeth live cinema experience at the Showcase, with a group of friends planning their next event whilst still in the auditorium. Bravo to the Manager and the team at the Showcase Cinema Dudley for offering the audience an enjoyable theatre type experience in a cinema setting.
We look forward to the next live RSC cinema event screening of the classic Romeo and Juliet at Showcase Cinemas on the 18th July.
Macbeth runs at the RSC Stratford until the 18th September before transferring to the Barbican London from 15th October until 18th January 2019.
Theatretastic rating 4/5:
We say: “A sinister, tense and haunting production of Macbeth. Niamh Cusack’s Lady M is one of our favourites as an actress in this role. She was captivating!”