Thursday 7 September 2023

Macbeth - Review

Shakespeare's Globe, London


Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Abigail Graham

Max Bennett

There’s a moment just before the (long-awaited) interval in Macbeth when Banquo’s  ghost stalks the stage. To be honest it’s a miracle that Banquo’s spirit is not accompanied by that of the great Sam Wanamaker (whose legacy is this magnificent theatre) or even Shakespeare himself, such is the artistic travesty of much of Abigail Graham’s production.

Where to begin? The script has been tinkered with and for no apparent reason Duncan and the three witches have been gender-swapped, although quite why Duncan is referred to as the Queen, but the three hags, played here by beefy men, are still referred to in the script as the Weird Sisters is beyond me. And inexplicably, hospital gurneys are solemnly wheeled on and off the stage at times when there are no bodies to be borne.

By all means set the piece in modern dress. The witches’ cauldron being replaced by an electric blender was a nice touch. (Fenny-snake frappucino anyone?) But don’t play fast and loose with the basic constructs. With Macbeth a hardy perennial on school syllabuses across the land, the Globe was mobbed with pupils, all eyewitnesses to the slaughter of a classic.

Amidst the evening’s cultural carnage there were a handful of standout performances. Max Bennett’s Macbeth will not be remembered as one of the greats but credit to the man, he soldiered on like a trouper nursing a recently broken finger, with only the swordplay reduced (I guess) to dagger fighting. Fine work too from Matti Houghton as Lady Macbeth whose descent into madness was harrowing to see. Equally, the howls of grief from Aaron Anthony’s Macduff were heart rending and convincing. And to be fair the production's blood and gore was fun.

Sleep no more - The Globe hath done a far better job of murdering Macbeth than Macduff could ever dream of.

Runs to 28th October
Photo credit: Johan Persson

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