Director: Eve Best
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: Joseph Millson, Samantha Spiro, Billy Boyd, Stuart Bowman, Gawn Grainger, Finty Williams, Philip Cumbus, Moyo Akande, Cat Simmons, Jess Murphy
Seen on: 15.9.2015
Macbeth (Joseph Mills) and Banquo (Billy Boyd) just fought successfully for King Duncan (Gawn Grainger) and are finally on their way home. In the woods, they meet three witches (Moyo Akande, Cat Simmons, Jess Murphy) who predict, among other things, that Macbeth will become King. Spurred on by that prophecy and uncontent to just wait for it to come true, Macbeth and his wife (Samantha Spiro) hatch the plan to help things along when Duncan comes to visit. But murder comes with moral consequences – and it might not be the only thing necessary to make Macbeth King.
My recent experiences with Macbeth were all retellings. In fact, I don’t actually think that I ever saw a straight-up version of it before. How great is it, then, that this production of the play was extremely close to perfection?
The production design is very minimal – the unchanging a high, dirty wooden fence that at one point used to be white at the back of the stage, barely any props, practically no costume changes. It forces your attention on the cast and the characters, which is an excellent choice for a play that is, at its heart, a character study, and an excellent one at that.
Especially when you have a cast like the one you have here. They were all great, but particular stand-outs, to me, were Samantha Spiro, who was absolutely wonderful as Lady Macbeth, delivering a touching, complex performance, and Philip Cumbus as Malcolm who somehow manages to make Macbeth (the play) lough out loud funny, although his performance is much more than just that.
Although the most perfect moment of the production involved neither of them, but was the incantation of the three witches that felt actually magical. It was enchanting and creepy and it gave me goosebumps. I wouldn’t have minded if it had gone on for ten minutes.
But there was one thing that didn’t work as well for me as the rest of the play, and that was Best’s take on the relationship between the Macbeths: as the play goes on it deteriorates much as the mental state of Lord and Lady Macbeth. Ultimately we see Lady Macbeth with a black eye, more than suggesting that Macbeth’s erratic behavior led to domestic violence. And while I do appreciate a take on the character of Lady Macbeth that makes her the great instigator, somehow even worse than her husband and I do like that it dillutes the message that mental illness comes from bad moral choices, I prefer the idea of the Macbeths as a morally corrupt power couple – much like House of Cards’ Underwoods.
But since that was the only thing I could fault the production with, and even then, it’s an ambivalent thing not without its points of interest, there were was more than enough about the production for me to utterly fall in love with it.
On a sidenote:
puzzledpeaces and me kept cackling during the production because at one point, the phrase “manly readinesse” is said and I turned to her and said “that’s the name of my future porn production company.” And we kept hearing amazing porn production names throughout the rest of the play: “there’s no bottome, none In my Voluptuousnesse”; “The Cesterne of my Lust, and my Desire”; “Thou com’st to vse thy Tongue” and, of course, “the sweet Milke of Concord”.
Gotta love Shakespeare and his inspiring, dirty mind.