Written at the start of the 17th century but set in 2008, this modern day version of Macbeth may challenge Shakespearean purists, but was a triumph of substance and style.
The Tragedy of Macbeth to give it its fullest title, is a brooding and bloody tale of dark ages Machiavellian intrigue, so the Georgian Theatre Royal audience didn’t attend expecting laughs galore. There is humour throughout Shakespeare’s work and Macbeth is no different, but this was all about ambition, vanity and personal greed. Plus, how such vices can be the undoing of us all, not just Scottish nobility.
It was a brassy and brilliant performance by a succession of RADS actors, with Clare Allen making her directorial debut. It would be unfair to future attendees to give away the whole game, but suffice to say the stage was set at fictional Scotland Palace Investments, with stockbrokers and financial traders wheeling and dealing.
The infamous Macbethian witches, namely cleaners (Suzy Brown, Susie Ordish and Carole White) were tremendous as they provided some comic relief to the murder and mayhem. Their scene towards the end was particularly strong.
Special mention to the two leading parts as Lady Macbeth (Rachel Hall) and Macbeth (Dan Westgarth) were outstanding. The former was the strong-arm wife, cajoling her husband to act decisively, while the latter really came into his own after the interval, as Macbeth’s world came crashing down.
Macduff (Scott Feeney) also ably displayed the hurt, anger and quest for justifiable revenge which was at the heart of the so-called Scottish play.
It is not a theatre experience for the feint hearted but well done to RADS for tackling such an imposing piece of Shakespeare’s craft. The temptation at the height of summer would have been to go for a light comedy, but then the wet and windy weather of late has been truly Macbethian.
Clare Allen has cut down the original length to make the play, at under two hours, far more rewarding and accessible. Whether or not you believe investment bankers are the modern equivalent of greedy and selfish Scottish chancers is up to you? My current preference would probably be for chief executives of privatised water companies, or energy utilities with their multi-billion profits.
What is for certain is that Clare and her RADS team brokered a first class deal in this production and if you get the chance, go and see it.
Macbeth – Final Performances are Thursday August 3rd to Saturday August 5th at Richmond’s Georgian Theatre Royal.