Macbeth at the Almeida
Here was a dark, visceral, warrior-like Macbeth with an accomplice whose role was illuminated by some very clever (if possibly controversial) directorial decisions. I loved it! As my favourite Shakespeare play I’ve seen it many, many times and this ranks top alongside a production at the Riverside Hammersmith 30 odd years ago. Gothic, brutal, and thrilling, yet often quiet, poignant and truthful.
Not one for the purists I suspect as director Yael Farber took some hefty liberties with the text, turning Macbeth soliloquies into dialogue with his wife and giving her further agency as the plot developed. Rushing to warn Lady Macduff of the approaching threat and then witnessing Macduff family’s brutal murder made her descent to madness and death more clearly motivated. But what a difference it makes to the whole dynamic of the couple. Brilliant.
James McArdle’s was a multi-layered and highly committed Thane who really gave it some belt, especially during the ‘ghost at the banquet’ scene. His ability to bring immense sensitivity and huge subtlety was very, very impressive and I strongly advise you to catch anything else he might be appearing in. This was a truly stellar performance.
Saiorse Ronan as Lady M seemed a little vocally limited at the very beginning but quickly warmed up as the play progressed and the couple’s relationship was beautifully portrayed with some lingering and tender moments of silent companionship.
Sparse props, included a couple of bits of portable staging, some perspex screens, a few chairs and a practical tap, were put to excellent use and were a fine example of how theatre doesn’t need a great deal of artifice when the narrative and performances are so compelling.
The supporting ensemble was very strong: weary, business-like witches watching the action whilst trapped in a cycle of tragic inevitability, tough Celtic soldiers in worn fatigues (with a standout Emun Elliott as Macduff), and a cellist on stage whose mournful and driving soundscape gave shape to the action, even as she interacted with the cast from time to time.
The live stream was very loose and this gave it a feeling of immediacy – lots of hand held camera work and a few missed moments but it stayed close to the action at all times and gave you the sense of immersion in the action. I do wish I’d seen it live now, but thank goodness live streaming gives you a chance to catch things you might otherwise have missed.
This was a production to remember. Stunning.