|James McAvoy's 'blood-splattered' Macbeth|
Review Round-up: McAvoy stars in futuristic Macbeth
Date: 25 February 2013
Jamie Lloyd's production of Macbeth opened last week at the Trafalgar Studios (22 February 2013), the first of a series of Lloyd-helmed productions in the newly-reconfigured venue.
Set in a dystopian Scotland of the future, it stars James McAvoy as Macbeth, Forbes Masson as Banquo and Claire Foy as Lady Macbeth.
Designed by Soutra Gilmour, it runs until April 27.
James McAvoy's Macbeth, a bristling, boisterous, blood-splattered presence... It's a performance of macho intensity, with a slight hint of homoeroticism in his relationship with Forbes Masson's Banquo. Claire Foy's Lady Macbeth's Scottish accent wavers a bit too much and I missed the driving ambition that powers the couple towards the fateful act Lloyd's vision is a bold one and he does create a real horror show, high on visual impact and with some decent performances. The biggest drawback is the length - this is a production that clocks in at just under three hours, which is too drawn-out for one of Shakespeare's shortest plays. It goes against the recent fashion for dispensing with the interval and the production loses a bit of its punch for that. But it's a promising start for the newly-developed theatre and Shakespeare in the West End is always to be welcomed.
This isn't the first time James McAvoy has played Macbeth... His performance was raw and compelling, and those adjectives are again appropriate as he reprises the role with fearless, sinewy conviction. Alongside him, Claire Foy is a wiry, driven Lady Macbeth. The relationship between them doesn't always pulse with attraction but Foy is eloquent and persuasive. They are well supported, a few wonky Scottish accents notwithstanding. Jamie Ballard is a tearful, vivid Macduff, Forbes Masson a passionate Banquo, and Hugh Ross a discreetly saintly Duncan. The atmosphere is more intimate than before, and also more versatile - with characters entering and exiting at 16 different points. It's a welcome overhaul for this somewhat tricky space, and Lloyd launches his tenure with a noisy, urgent, populist account of this perennially watchable play.
...it is one more step in the commercial theatre's realisation that its future lies in artistic continuity. But, although it's a good occasion, there's a relentlessly visceral quality to Lloyd's production that eventually becomes a bit wearing. McAvoy stays absolutely true to Lloyd's concept by offering us a Macbeth who is almost brutally physical: the kind of "strong man" who seizes power in a tottering realm. Where McAvoy, and the production, falls down is in capturing the wasted potential and hidden spirituality of a Macbeth who can talk of "heaven's cherubin" and describe his soul as "mine eternal jewel". For all its hectic quality, there is much to savour in this production. McAvoy is exciting to watch. Claire Foy, although costumed like a garage mechanic, conveys Lady M's increasing isolation from her husband. If you like violent, in-yer-face Shakespeare, this will be for you. But I still think three hours is too long...
The stage has been raised by more than two metres, and extended out into the auditorium, bringing spectators closer to the action... It all makes for a powerful theatrical impact in this most scary and claustrophobic... The cast are dressed in bedraggled clothes that look like rejects from the Oxfam shop, while the Macbeths’ castle, with an on stage lavatory into which Macbeth pukes violently before killing Duncan, is more squalid that a student flat during the Edinburgh Fringe. My chief grouse is that, with a running time of three hours, the production sometimes misses the hurtling momentum of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy.
There is a time near the end of this noisiest of evenings, when in eerie silence James McAvoy slumps on a battered chair, machete on his lap... It is riveting. McAvoy gives it all that Shakespeare offers, and redeems my earlier doubts. Yes, he is a Macbeth worth seeing, though one that is not for the fainthearted. And Claire Foy’s Lady Macbeth is a revelation: a teenage virago, unsettled and psychotic. Lloyd has a knack of creating intensity (most recently in the Old Vic’s Duchess of Malfi) and hysteria gets almost too tightly wound in the first half. And so the endgame: mesmerising quiet before battle, a final brawl as the front rows cower from axe and machete, a warpainted Macduff in a garotting grapple, and McAvoy — clearly not a man to flinch from physical pain — tipped headfirst down one of the witches’ trapdoors until his horrid severed head is brought aloft.
...You could say that he is always the man of action even when laying bare – in incisive and pungently Scots-accented verse-speaking – the knotty nuances of his innermost fears and torments. And the actor makes that seem perfectly natural in a gripping, no-holds-barred performance that will impress fans of his work in the X-Men movies and unlock for youthful newcomers to Shakespeare some of the poetic and psychological riches of the play. For my taste, the production is a wee bit over-the-top but there are sequences where it achieves an extraordinary thematic penetration. The staging does not perhaps allow the leading actor to explore deeply enough the way that Macbeth becomes the burnt-out observer of his own growing inability to feel. But McAvoy's Thane shows a taste for black humour from the outset and an inclination to retreat into defensively sardonic laughter...
|Just seen the production. This set of reviews is appalling it was awful. It rivals the O'Toole Macbeth in degrees of awfulness. - Natasha||10 Apr 13|
|After seeing Macbeth I happened to end up in the same pub as McAvoy and some co stars - I tried to take a quiet photo of them from across the pub. If McAvoy didn't want a picture, which was actually of his costar John Hopkins, fair enough, but screaming at me and my friends to 'F*CK OFF' was thoroughly unecessary, rude and disprespectful of the admiration that has taken him so far. Will not bother wasting money on supporting his career any further, as he clearly doesn't appreciate it. Not sure why anyone else would bother when presumably they'd receive the same treatment. There were several other ways to handle the situation, which wasn't even related to him. I'm not one for posting on message boards, or being interested in celeb glory or failure, I appreciate their achievements as and when - but this was just ridiculously rude. And his portrayal of Macbeth? Average at best. - Beth||09 Mar 13|
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Featured Editor's Picks
|Infographic: The economic impact of Arts & Culture in the UK |
When Culture Secretary Maria Miller called for the arts to make their "economic case" for subsidy, t...
|Plays Cast: Harry Potter star in Southwark Moment, more for Branagh's Macbeth|
Bonnie Wright, best known for playing Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, will make her stage d...
|Brief Encounter with ... The Kite Runner's Ben Turner|
Ben Turner stars in the stage version of the bestselling book The Kite Runner, which runs at Liverpo...
|Titus Andronicus (RSC)|
This latest production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, to borrow from football punditry, is a p...
|Take Five: Britain's outdoor theatres|
With half-term approaching, the weather (hopefully) set to improve for the bank holiday weekend and ...
|West End Live returns to Trafalgar Square next month|
West End Live, a weekend of free entertainment from top London shows, will return to Trafalgar Squar...
|Robert Sean Leonard: 'I carry the ghost of Gregory Peck on my shoulders'|
Actor Robert Sean Leonard is currently playing Atticus Finch in Timothy Sheader's production of To K...
|To Kill A Mockingbird|
Twenty years ago, a young Robert Sean Leonard appeared on the London stage with Alan Alda in...
|X Factor musical titled I Can't Sing!, opens Palladium March 2014 |
The forthcoming X Factor musical will be called I Can't Sing! The Musical and will premiere at the L...
|Donmar stages Nick Payne premiere, Wesker's Roots & Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus |
The Donmar Warehouse has announced its new season, which features the premiere of Nick Payne's new p...