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Macbeth

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
2 stars
How boring can you make Macbeth? This is a question which needs to be seriously levelled at Lucy Pitman-Wallace’s new production of Shakespeare’s ambition-fuelled gore-fest, which opens the Royal Lyceum’s autumn season in this co-production with Nottingham Playhouse. Because, while it starts off promisingly enough, with Liam Brennan’s Macbeth and Allison Mackenzie’s Lady M seemingly rekindling the fire of their relationship with the Witches power of suggestion, it ends up in a passion-free zone in what must be one of the most emotionally unengaging Macbeths in recent years.

In some respects, going for understatement rather than obvious bombast is a brave move. Brennan is a master of it, and the central interplay between him and Mackenzie is pretty much the only thing the production has going for it. Initially appearing like an off-white nun, Mackenzie’s Lady M is a haughty social climber who, like her husband, gets in too deep, driven neurotic by having nowhere left to go. Beyond this, however, much of the sparring, slow-motion dinner party scenes and spectral visitations are just too casual. Having the Witches lead the dead offstage too simply doesn’t convince as anything other than a device to get the next scene going.

The slate-grey circular fortress set seems to have been built for an in-the-round studio theatre, distancing the audience even more on the Lyceum’s proscenium arch, and the costumes look leftover from an Open University production circa 1972. All of which, for a Macbeth that admirably avoids contemporary gimmickry, is a lost opportunity. Productions which attempt to get to the play’s dark heart without recourse to such tricks are in short supply. If they’re as dull as this, small wonder.

The Herals, September 15th 2008

ends

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