Well, this was just appallingly bad, but the problem with this production isn't really the acting, but the direction. One peculiar directorial decision after another, and it soon becomes pretty clear that whatever weaknesses and flaws are present in the acting, those are the result of poor or insufficient direction (by Edward Kemp). The first scene with the weird sisters ends with the loud sound of a jet screeching overhead, recorded, not an accidental disturbance, and when the scene with Duncan and his entourage gets underway, the reason for the strange sound effect soon becomes clear.
The setting is a bit confused, but appears to be 20th century-ish (and a bit Russian), as Duncan's men enter in a army vehicle and carry machine guns, and the "bloody man" that Duncan sees approaching turns out to be the captain turned into a fighter pilot, and apparently it was he that was downed in his jet when that earlier sound effect was played. It becomes very strange to hear him relay news of how valiantly Macbeth fought; did he see that up from his fighter plane? Ludicrous. The pilot isn't carried away to be cared for, as he should be if this followed the text, instead his (dead) body remains on stage, for no other purpose than to allow the next scene with the sisters a bit of extra gore, when one of them cuts off what she triumphantly declares to be a "pilot's thumb", which is probably why the director thought that it was clever to turn that character into a fighter pilot. Sigh. The overemphasized physicality of the porter scene and some similar touches to the banqueting scene got some laughs, but were largely unnecessary.
When Duncan arrives at Macbeth's castle, there an inexplicable bit of Cossack dancing, but then Duncan and the others don't leave the stage, instead they remain, sort of silently and slowly miming a dance as Macbeth delivers his first soliloquy, which seems to serve no purpose. The insertion of the coronation of Macbeth is something that I can accept, but the many minor changes to the text don't really serve a purpose, instead they feel almost perverse. When Macbeth orders the servant to let him know when things are ready (before the murder of Duncan) he calls the servant "girl", why is this change necessary? Because it's played by a woman? No such change needed be made. Though it's possible that this was actually a case of bad diction, but what professional actor would speak the simple word "go" so badly that is sounds like "girl"? Similarly, when the director has decided that it isn't just Macduff who encounters Ross and tells him that he won't be going to Macbeth's coronation, but instead to Fife, but rather both Macduff and Lady Macduff (why!?!), the line is changed to "we'll to Fife". Aargh!
Banquo and Fleance come off as a couple of strangers meeting by accident in the night, not father and son going about their business, and when Banquo is murdered there's no call to Fleance to run and avenge him later. This makes Fleance's running away seem very cowardly, clearly never Shakespeare's intention as Fleance is supposed to be the ancestor of James I for whom this was first performed, but at least this saves the audience the trouble of wondering why Fleance never returns to take his revenge, as he ought to have done (one of the loose ends of the play itself).
One the whole, the actors do their best and shortcomings of the production is clearly down to the director, and the way many of the actors are just acting and never reacting, just standing still as other characters speak, is a sure sign of just that. A dreadful production. //Jenny
Whatsonstage.com - Discount London theatre tickets, theatre news and reviews, Theatre videos, Theatre discussion, National Theatre Listings. Covering London's West End, all of Theatreland and all UK theatre. The best
for London Theatre Ticket Discounts.