Review: Macbeth – Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London

Double, double toil and trouble…is sung by an eerily enigmatic and cerebral voice from the orchestra at the Globe Theatre; underneath a tarp on the stage something, or rather four someones, move and shift, creating rippling effects both on stage and through the audience. This must mean one thing, we are watching The Scottish Play.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth has always been a character that gives prominence to themes of madness, lust for power and the influences of the supernatural upon the world of men. The question at the forefront of every audience members mind when entering a production of Macbeth will always and forever more be, “How will they do the Wyrd Sisters?”. The answer for this production: add in a fourth witch and take away the originally spoken speech in order to transform it into atmospheric orchestral music, reminsicent of that from the plays Scottish origins. The result? An eery opening as the *Four Witches* puppeter a dead soldier in contemporary uniform from death and bring him back to life in order to begin Act 1 Scene 2 and so contrast the floating deportment of the introduction into a tiresome tone of war that has just ceased.

Director Iqbal Khan has an eye for atmosphere and uses every facet of the Globe’s ‘o’erhanging firmament’ (Hamlet) to his advantage through his use of a rising and falling tarp to simulate ghostly visions, spells and imply scene changes out to the attentive audience. What I found particularly interesting was the use of the speakers in the courtyard to create a surround sound, allowing the audience to feel that they, just like Macbeth, are trapped in this world of murder and witchery.
As well as this, Khan makes an au courant decision in his casting, allowing the cast to be of mixed race without it influencing or creating implications for the plot or characters. A bold choice that truly adds to the ethics of, not only the Globe Theatre’s foundations, but our developing modern society.

Macbeth, the leading man of whom the play revolves is encapsulated by Ray Fearon, an actor more than capable of handling Shakespeare’s sharply woven, alliterated lines and truly playing upong the double sided nature of Macbeth. One being the strong, fearless warrior and leader, the other a frightened individual torn by his lust for power and the influences of his wifes demeaning tongue. Fearon brings to the role a Macbeth that never stops progressing. However, I personally would prefer my Macbeth to be a little less of a constant chaos in a majority of scenes. In terms of the stakes of the character, the boundaries felt as if they were pushed perhaps too early in the characters arc and therefore much more effort was required to raise these higher. As an audience member, this can become exhausting to watch. Additionally, as an actor, I can understand it is proper method to enunciate clearly to hit all the syllables and as we all know, that sometimes requires spit but by jove, bring a rainjacket! In saying this, I’d prefer a bit of raw energy spraying the stage than having to lean in to second guess the crucial and most infamous lines spoken from the character.

A Macbeth is only as good as his Lady Macbeth and this production won the lottery when they cast Tara Fitzgerald as the scheming wife hidden under a demure attitude, who is just as power hungry as her warrior husband. Fitzgerald, who (until recently) could be seen in HBO’s Game of Thrones (spoilers) brings to Lady Macbeth a voluptuousness that lures you into a false and uneasy calm. You couldn’t help but love her! As the catalyst (arguably) for Macbeth’s murder of King Duncan, Fitzgerald holds her own against the somewhat mountainous Fearon. The two play off each other exceedingly well and Lady Macbeth’s longing for a lost child is at the forefront of this interpretation. This maternal bond and maternal loss are played upon very artfully throughout this production with subtleness that will get your inner scholar frustratingly interpreting its meaning once you leave the theatre, all the way until you reach your thinking chair at home. It’s Fitzgerald’s descent into madness that really hits home as she lets out a blood curdling scream of anguish before just as easily snapping back into a dull faced stare that is more effective than any onstage death could have been. No reporter will be asking this Lady what outfit she’s wearing.

A particular highlight was found in Shakespeare’s, oddly out of place, comedic Porter scene with Nadia Albina who placed the audience in fits and giggles. From her entrance from the floorboards downstage in a sleeping bag (an audience member having to open it) to her hobbled run back into the same hole, she stole the Globe Theatre stage for a solid ten minutes of the production. Albina played the political, she played upon her own uniqueness with gusto and she, quite literally, was the comedic relief you hear so much about. Brava.
As well as Albina, the rest of the company were all solid in their roles, whether it was Kerry Gooderson playing three roles of such variety or Sam Cox treading the Globe Theatre floorboards yet again, a natural veteran of the stage who knows how to fill a space with his presence.

I would applaud the creative choice to stick to the original script and have all the deaths committed offstage, however, I like my Macbeth bloody and bawdy, an element this production sometimes went without and an element I’m not sure they felt all too comfortable delving into. An exception to this was the expertly carried out Banquet Scene with the ghost of Banquo, it honestly felt like the director found a way to bring a ghost on stage. Chills.

In all this was a solid production that satiated my mammoth Shakespearean appetite but boy it does take it out on the knees if you are a groundling!

Rating: 3.5/5

Can you imagine seeing this back when they thought Witches were real? No wonder the Groundlings always stood in poo.

Macbeth is playing at the Globe Theatre until the 1st October. Tickets available at the Globe Theatre.

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