It’s just been announced that Macbeth which was recently performed as part of the Manchester International Festival will be transferring to New York in 2014. The play is currently being shown in cinemas across the country as part of the National Theatre Live programme after enjoying huge success at the festival. When it was initially revealed that Kenneth Branagh would be co-directing the production and taking on the lead role, the production sold out within nine minutes. As soon as the production began, the reviews that came in suggested that every ticket sold was worth its money and I am inclined to agree.
An old church has been used to stage the play and is certainly taken full advantage of, with the aisle covered in dirt beginning as a battle zone and turning into a place for feasting, festivities and madness as the play progresses. The audience were seated on each side of the aisle and are completely immersed in the action (with the chance of being hit with mud and fake blood a strong possibility).
At one end of the church, candles burn brightly whilst the other end is covered in dark planks, resembling a fortress, and doors swing open and shut allowing the Weird Sisters to appear and torment Macbeth. They were particularly unnerving in this production, covered in dirt from head to toe so just their teeth and eyes shine manically whilst they howl their lines and run around the stage.
A stand out performance for me, was from Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth. She appeared to avoid the typical portrayal of Lady Macbeth as a heartless and ruthless character who encourages Macbeth to do most of the dirty work. Instead, Lady Macbeth was presented as a woman very much in love with her husband and desperate to keep things together as he slowly begins to unravel.
Watching the play via National Theatre Live made it an interesting experience as the camera directs you to the action, and in some ways, intensifies it. The scene transitions are seamless and the staging and lighting choices are very clever; for example, whilst Macbeth’s famous ‘Is this a dagger I see before me?’ line echoes through the church, a light in the shape of an enormous dagger lays itself at his feet.
Check the listings of your local cinemas and see if you can enjoy a National Theatre Live screening of this play (or the many others they show) and if you have seen it, tell us what you thought!