Stage Review: Macbeth

PUBLISHED: 10:00 17 March 2018

Rory Kinnear plays Macbeth at the Royal National Theatre, London. Picture:  Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Rory Kinnear plays Macbeth at the Royal National Theatre, London. Picture: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

It takes some arrogance to rewrite Shakespeare, says TIM WALKER.

The sheer size of the National Theatre’s Olivier stage seems to have thrown everyone involved in this production of Macbeth into a state of utter panic.

Set designer Rae Smith tries to make it feel more manageable by throwing down several vast curtains of cheap paper taffeta. She then gets it into her head to plonk what looks like a vast underpass from the M25 in the middle and have the actors scurry up and down it. She also erects a succession of ugly little railway station waiting rooms for them to play out a great many of their big scenes.

All of this toil and trouble seems to be a tacit admission by Smith and the director Rufus Norris that Rory Kinnear, the actor in the title role, hasn’t the personality to fill the stage on his own. This is a pity because you can’t have a production of Macbeth without a dominating Macbeth any more than you can have a Hamlet without the prince.

The penny-dreadful horrors that Norris elects to invest his production with make it harder still to concentrate and even had some punters tittering: there are people wandering around with decapitated heads in carrier bags and zombie-like creatures going hither and thither. The costumes don’t help, either – pure grunge, provided by none other than a man named Moritz Junge.

Kinnear was a big favourite of Sir Nicholas Hytner during his period in charge of the National, appearing in one production after and another, but the actor has since switched the emphasis in his career to television sitcoms, such as Count Arthur Strong, and the recurring role of Bill Tanner in the James Bond films.

It was a shrewd move since screen close-ups play to all of Kinnear’s strengths – the actor has, like his late father, Roy, a splendidly expressive face and a gift for comedy – and, accordingly, the big stage of the National for a tragedy like this plays to all of his weaknesses.

I dread to think how the school kids taken to see this production will be able to get any kind of handle on the work. The opening scene with the three witches has been summarily dropped – it takes some arrogance to re-write Shakespeare – and there is no attempt to locate the action in either time or place. So distant is this from the original text it is not even clear, for goodness sake, if Macbeth is Scottish.

As for Lady Macbeth – one of the greatest of all roles ever created for a woman – no less an actress than Anne-Marie Duff struggles to make an impression with all of the nonsense going on around her.

If the production has a message, it has nothing to do with the destruction wrought when ambition goes unchecked, but what calamity can ensue when a director isn’t concentrating, the set designer takes matters into her own hands, and there is far too much grunge from Junge. Three and a half hours, I am afraid, of utter tedium.

TWO STARS

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £13

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.



Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European



If Yes, Name to appear in The New European



Latest Articles

ANTI-BREXIT EVENTS

Grassroots anti-Brexit campaigners are increasing the pressure on politicians ahead of a series of important votes this year. Here is a list of the events organised across Britain in the coming weeks and months.

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

The New European weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy