Macbeth – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review by Frank L.
Until Jan 19th 2019
This revival of the National Theatre’s production of Macbeth, according to the programme notes, is set “Now, after a civil war”. Seen on 15th of January, 2019, at the end of the House of Commons debate on Brexit, a civil war seems increasingly likely! Theresa May and her cabinet do seem a touch delusional as an increasingly uncivil war rages in Britain. But delusions and Macbeth are easy enough companions. “The now” of the production is proclaimed by the clothing that the cast wears. It is primarily the sort of mass produced gear which can be bought online on any number of websites. Of course, such everyday garb does not signify the presence of power. But it is the pursuit of power by Macbeth (Michael Nardone) ably assisted by his wife Lady Macbeth (Kirsty Besterman) that drives the murderous action of the play.
The set is dominated by a vast ramp which stands at the beginning in the centre of the stage. It moves easily through 180 degrees thereby creating backdrops for a myriad of the interior scenes which are created by two smaller mobile wooden structures which transform themselves into various interiors. The overall predominant colours are beige, black, brown and grey so flashes of scarlet as worn by Malcolm and green, on one occasion, by Lady Macbeth stand out. The initial unsettling phenomenon in the production are the three witches who bear no resemblance to the traditional representation of them as withered old hags. These are nubile young women, fleet of foot, who dash around the stage in large arcs before ascending, with gymnastic ease, three tall poles from where they announce their three mysterious prophesies which drive the story.
The lighting is striking throughout, in particular in relation to the ghost of Banquo which is a disconcerting luminous green which makes for a much more unsettling representation of his presence than any more traditional phenomenon. In fact, the lighting makes for stunning visual landscapes and unsettling interiors.
Fine acting and clear diction is what you take as a given from the National Theatre, London. Therefore, the slight apparent distortion of the words spoken by the witches seemed to add little. Their words are so important to the plot nothing should take from their clarity.
The overall impression of the production was that it made for an engrossing night at the theatre as the cast grappled with Macbeth’s obsessive need for untrammelled power with Lady Macbeth his more than willing accomplice in the task. No doubt purists may have their quibbles, that is inevitable with a play as famous as Macbeth but this production held the attention as the murderous plot unfolded. It was engrossing.