REVIEW: NATIONAL THEATRE – MACBETH @ WMC

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We’ve seen local theatre tackle Shakespeare in new and insightful ways recently. Rhodri Miles’ one man show of Shylock and Tron Theatre’s Taming of the Shrew are recent and exciting examples. Yet what is going on in London and the National Theatre?

Rufus Norris’ take on the Scottish play is harsh and dark, moody and tense. There is an unrelenting style to this staging, Rae Smith’s huge ramp and shabby curtains haunt the stage, as the three witches in tourist raincoats do climbing stunts on poles. The witches here haunt the stage a bit more than usual, though they do seem to have a huge impact on the production as every word they utter is projected in huge echoes and fierce distortions around the theatre. The music by Orlando Gough and Marc Tritschler, with sound design by Paul Arditti are each adding immense atmosphere here, with chilling instrumentation and synths. The ethereal whooshing is matched with creepy and deep woodwind, other times sounding like Stockhausen or Luigi Nono. 

The power of the play lies in how much you feel for Macbeth, who never really stops being a villain, yet seems to fall to fate and his circumstances (the fact he was born via C-Section is mentioned). The relationship with Lady Macbeth is also the large other component which can make or break any interpretation. Here, these elements work well thanks to great performances and challenging new looks at the lead character as a source of pity rather than hate. The guilt experienced by Macbeth is justified due to his wrong doings and quest for the throne. Questioning him doubts his true villain hood and thus proves how rounded the Bard created his characters as. 

I found Michael Nardone a rowdy Macbeth, with a perfect Scottish accent and up to the challenge of the part. His rages are surprise and menace is at times unnerving. He came into his own in the party scene where his past murders come back to haunt him. After his outburst his wife delivers the great zinger: “You have dispelled the mirth”, delivered a cutting jab by Kirsty Besterman. She is a no nonsense Lady and also has some compelling moments with these famous monologues a tragic demise which is grisly and startlingly real. There is a fine ensemble of actors here, proving some accents suit the verse better than others. Past this, there is guts and bravado in a play that needs many excellent smaller roles to compliment the two leads. 

A Macbeth for those hungry for a robust bash of Shakespeare.    

Rating: 4 stars

Macbeth continues at the WMC till 23rd March 2019, then on tour.     

Photo Credit: National Theatre Website


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