Thursday, 3 May 2018

Macbeth (National Theatre)

National Theatre's banner for Macbeth - monochrome image of Rory Kinnear and Anne Marie Duff embracing

The RSC and National Theatre both have big productions of Macbeth this year, and originally, A and I were planning to see them almost back to back, with the RSC version on 17th March, and NT a week later, on 24th. However, I was ill and missed the NT one. I did, however,  finally  catch up.

The NT version features Rory Kinnear as Macbeth,and Anne-Marie Duff as Lady Macbeth, with Patrick O'Kane as Macduff and Kevin Harvey as Banquo.

The programme tells me that the setting for the play is 'Now, after a civil war'  I'm going to venture a guess that it was a civil war which went very, very badly, as it appears to have left Scotland in a Mad Max style wasteland of gang wars, where noble soldiers such as Macbeth are forced to use parcel tape to attach their armour, and everyone is reduced to living in tiny concrete bunkers, in shanty towns. (I'm assuming that the civil war was with England, and that England came out of it better, as the English forces with Malcolm at the end of the play have proper battle dress and so on, although they are all fighting with machetes and kitchen knives, so presumably Scotland destroyed all the English arms manufacturers and military stockpiles...)

Set with corpse (pic from NT Twitter
I have to say that I found the whole post apocalyptic set and setting rather distracting, it left me wondering whether, and when, the plastic bags on poles would become significant. And I also did feel that someone really should have taken the director aside and told him that just because the National's Olivier stage has a big turntable in it so you can rotate the stage, doesn't mean that you have to use it all the time. 

However, despite these irritations, I did enjoy the play, and there were some excellent performances. Rory Kinnear was excellent, he comes across as practical and level-headed, and as such, his disintegration and visions of his victims have all the greater impact. 

Even though the set didn't appeal to me, it did have it's effective points. Macbeth standing, the only still figure as a rave took place celebrating Duncan's visit to their 'castle' for instance, and an early scene with Lady Macbeth washing her hands, long before the sleepwalking scene.

I enjoyed Kevin Harvey's performance as Banquo, (pre-murder). As the ghost, he is forced to appear as a shambling, zombie like figure, which for me didn't work well. 

The vision of Banquo's line of descendants was interesting, involving people wearing masks on the backs of their heads, walking up the sloping part of the set. 

Over all, I thought it was an interesting production, but a bit confused!

It's at the National until 23rd June, and is being shown at cinemas as part of NTLive on 10th May

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