After Romeo and Juliet I went to see the contrasting Macbeth: a production starring Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack and directed by Polly Findlay. After the fairly dire National Theatre version, I had high hopes for this one and I wasn’t disappointed.
The tale of the Scottish thane tempted by a prophecy into murdering his king to indulge his ambition is a well-known one. This production of Macbeth brings out the darker aspects of the play – it is presented as a psychological horror. I don’t know whose idea it was to have the three witches played by three little girls in pyjamas clutching dolls, but it was a stroke of genius. They are super creepy and very impressive, considering they are so young. Another good move is suggesting that the Porter is in fact the Devil, watching over Macbeth’s every move. Played superbly by Michael Hodgson, his very presence is sinister, even when calmly vacuuming the floor. Sound and lighting reminiscent of horror movies further reinforces this impression.
Christopher Eccleston is a strong Macbeth, but Niamh Cusack is even better as his ambitious wife, sensual and calulating. There is the interesting suggestion that what pushes her over the edge is the news that Macduff’s children have been murdered – a nod to her presumed own lost child. I was also glad to see Edward Bennett again – his performance as Macduff as he hears the news of his family’s murder is heartbreaking.
Fly Davis’ set is used effectively, with a higher stage level used to emphasise the difference between the characters playing a role, on their best behaviour following the rules of court, while the ‘real’ stuff happens on the ground.
One of the most memorable and exciting Macbeths I’ve seen, this production is superbly well done and well worth seeing.