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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
Such is the legend associated with the many disasters of the "Scottish Play" that there is a Macbeth story of a production starring the great Sir Ralph Richardson. When someone refused to lend him money, Richardson threatened that he would put it about that the actor was a member of the cast of Richardson's disastrous Macbeth. O'Toole's Macbeth at the Old Vic in the 1980s was met with giggles from the audience as he appeared covered from head to toe in blood and sais, "I have done the deed.". In view of the problematic nature of this play, it is surprising that anyone is prepared to put up the money but so many schools study this play, that there is a guaranteed audience of school parties.
Dominic Cooke has opted for the run-through rapid Macbeth, two hours ten minutes without an interval. I last saw this version directed by Gregory Doran with Antony Sher, again under the auspices of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It is a tall order for an RSC fledgling director to stage a successful Macbeth.
Whilst I have a lot of admiration for Greg Hick's and his powerful reverberated voice, the verse of this play did not come over as it should have. He has a good physique but here he seemed slight and tense. Perhaps the Albery is not the right space. The minimalist set too didn't help nor did the three Bagdad housewives who were the witches and about as sinister as last week's dirty washing. Sian Thomas, wild eyed, was excellent as the distracted, mad Lady Macbeth but I felt, not powerful enough as Lady Macbeth before the guilt wreaks its heavy price. Nothing chilled in the banquet scene nor even in the murder of Macduff's wife and children. Richard Cordery's Duncan I found dull rather than statesmanlike and saintly, and Pal Aron as Malcolm is decidedly odd with a drink problem. What on earth was the director trying to do in the final scene by making Malcolm sit centre stage up in the flies above the lone figure of Macbeth? I do not know.
I suppose the good news for young directors is that there is still room for a brilliant production of this difficult play. Michael Boyd has established the RSC's presence back in London. Now he has to attract great actors of the future. I still hanker for the days twelve years ago under Trevor Nunn's regime when my children asked me if a play was any good and I was able to say, "Of course it is. It's the RSC putting it on."
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. Click image to buy.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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