The recent performance of Macbeth by the Royal Shakespeare Company was an absolute pleasure to witness. Having shamefully never even read or seen Macbeth before, I wasn’t sure what to expect: something about murder and some witches was the extent of my knowledge. But I’ve been completely won over by this production, so much so that I’ve bought a copy of the play and I’m settling down to read it now!
As for the performance, I cannot sing enough praises for Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of Macbeth. His depiction was astoundingly powerful in creating the dark, tortured psyche of a good man turned insane, power-hungry murderer. I haven’t seen much of Eccleston’s work outside of Doctor Who’s Ninth Doctor, but it was great to see that same enthusiasm incorporated into an entirely different characterisation. My only criticism would be Macbeth’s quick changeability – his honourability seemed to turn into ruthless ambition within the space of a scene. However, this may be nothing to do with Eccleston, and instead a loophole of the play, which is why I’m currently investigating.
Niamh Cusack excelled in her role as Lady Macbeth, proving to be an equal match to Eccleston in power, which worked very well in the influential role that she has over Macbeth. She brought a suitably elegant finesse to the character, when interacting with the ‘public’ sphere, as opposed to her unhinged madness in private. Cusack’s stark contrast between Lady Macbeth in the first scene, and her deterioration into the ‘madness’ scene, was genius.
But the crowning jewel of this production was the three Witches, who brought the eeriness and tension which is so memorable in the play. Initially, I was unsure of the effectiveness of casting three girls at the witches – I’d expected more demonism and cursing. But they were so impressive, with their timing and monotonous voices, amidst the misty stage and low lighting. In bold red dresses amongst the darkened stage, I additionally loved their involvement in the prop movement, as this felt as though they had more of an involvement in the plot than just telling the prophecy. This extra involvement emphasises how the Witches actually drive the play in the first place, since none of the events would have happened if the Witches had not tempted Macbeth’s ambitions through their foretelling.
Special mention must be made of the props and the costumes. I adored the showers of golden glitter that fell from the ceiling during the coronation of Macbeth, and the fight between him and Macduff, which attempted to gloss over the dark, bloody truth of what was happening. Lady Macbeth’s costumes were equally beautiful, portraying the same juxtaposition of glamour and gore.
Director Polly Findlay’s Macbeth was truly a sight to behold – her production has generated a new excitement for me, in a Shakespeare play which I have yet to discover!