Magic and Mystery at Globe Macbeth

If you have never been to see a Shakespeare play before then you could do a lot worse than start with the Globe’s current production of Macbeth, which is not the faint praise it may seem.

Macbeth is often a much more interesting experience to read than it is on stage, obsessed as directors often are with making it realistic; nine times out of ten that means removing the magic and a worthy, dull experience this can be.

The opposite is true this time and the magic, in the form of beguiling, lilting Celtic-esque singing and playing, runs through the whole performance. So far from stripping away the supernatural is this show that they have actually added a bonus witch — “When shall we three meet again”is Mathematically challenged but then again in Macbeth “nothing is but what is not.”

We also get a random child hanging round with the Macbeths which was puzzling as they don’t have any children (or do they…) but he was very cute and great for class discussion on possible textual justification.

Macbeth has always been my least favourite of Shakespeare’s big four – I have been slightly bored in Macbeth by actors as diverse as Bob Peck and Jonathan Pryce but this production makes my top three perhaps pipping my favourite it on staging because of the total absence of helicopters — funnily enough these don’t improve the whole Macbeth experience –potential directors please note. My top ever Macbeth was Sean Bean fyi–spoiler alert,  they do kill him.

The lighting, costuming and staging are all enchanting. I am very impressed with what they could conjure up using the array of scattered limbs and heads with a piece of black chiffon.

Tara Fitzgerald’s wardrobe as Lady Macbeth also gets an honourable mention particularly the gorgeous red velvet gown — now what could that symbolise boys and girls? The production’s full on teacher mode is pretty successful and really catching.

The Macbeths are seriously loved up and to be honest who doesn’t love Tara Fitzgerald? And as for Ray Fearon menacing as a panther prowling the stage – what literary devices are used here, can anyone tell me???

If I am going to single out a performance, it has to be Nadia Albina as the porter: funny, sinister, writhing on the right-side of suggestiveness. I last saw her as Cassandra in the RSC’s stunning Hecuba (with Ray Fearon as Agamemnon, incidentally) and she is fearless and brilliant again.

But there is a damned spot — damNED here –in this Macbeth and that is the treatment of the language.

The text is hacked back to under three hours and although it is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays that is really quite short, particularly given there are chunks where no one is speaking and, that when they DO speak, there is a propensity do so very slowly LIKE English people speaking TO foreigners with random words shouted for NO apparent reason – do you see what I did there?

If they sorted out the verse speaking which shouldn’t be hard given both of the leads are accomplished actors this could be a brilliant production instead of just a very good one. Having seen Fitzgerald as Ophelia (to Ralph Fiennes Hamlet) and more recently as a ferocious, heart-rending Hermione, I am going to blame the director on this although I guess the new sound system could be a part of the issue.

When darkness finally descended on Midsummer London, the glorious Globe with the fantastically lit set really came into its own. As I looked round the rapturously applauding audience, I notice a marked absence of bored overseas school kids wishing they’d opted for the trip to Camden Market instead. I’d call that a result and Emma Rice would probably call it WONDER.



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