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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
Some of the director's ideas are starting to look familiar from his productions of Henry V, Julius Caesar and Rose Rage, and not all of them seem appropriate to Macbeth. There is a fine line between what could be described as a director's trademarks and repetitious use of the same staging devices. Hall's favourites seem to be military pomp and loutish soldiers, the red cross of St George and coronations with lots of music. The coronation scene with its medieval singing in Latin seemed to me more English than the Scottish setting of Scone Abbey. There is much use of music in a language that I was unable to understand (maybe Gaelic?) and I didn't hear the witches' famous spell, unless that too was sung and I missed the words. Their prediction too, seemed to be glossed over rather than the lines on which to hang the play. Malcolm's vomiting on seeing the bodies of his father and the guards elicits a comic "Ewe!" from the schoolchildren in the audience rather than the, presumably intended, revulsion. The set is the same post-industrial welded up metal we had in Rose Rage, but the costume is rather pedestrian modern uniforms.
However the production does flow at a fair pace and there is flamboyant, showy, excitement with extravagant thunderstorms and some sexual electricity between the witches and Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth (Samantha Bond) and her thane. These factors pleased the young audience. The banqueting scene works well when Macbeth's chair is occupied by a bloody faced Banquo (Barnaby Kay) who turns to follow Macbeth round the room with his accusatory gaze. Before the final battle the ghosts of Duncan, Banquo and the pregnant Lady MacDuff (Clare Swinburne) and her children look on. The battle has bangs and smoke and flaming torches and clashes of steel broad swords. I might question the wisdom of the naked flames onstage in the middle of a Fire Brigades Union strike, but it adds to the tension.
Sean Bean chooses to speak the part with the flat accent of his native South Yorkshire. I have no objection to his accent, maybe closer to the sound of Shakespearean English, than Estuary English or Received Pronunciation, but his delivery of the lines lacks something. Maybe it is the belief that the words are his own, maybe it is an understanding of the nuances of the text? Physically Bean is very impressive and his four in a bed scene with the three weird sisters which he plays "sans chemise" makes everyone sit up. Most men fantasise at three in a bed, but then if you're Sean Bean maybe you can stretch it to four! In power he becomes a bespectacled, bureaucrat at a desk rather than a warrior king. Samantha Bond starts her role well as the sex equals power, driven, ambitious wife but degenerates into a complaining nag. In madness Julian Glover fails to convey both his roles of the holy Duncan - (he confuses saintliness with being boring) and the comic porter (played in broad Glaswegian and terribly unfunny) whose part seemed cut. Strangest of all is the casting of the diminutive Adrian Schiller as a rather scheming and manipulative Malcolm with his staccato delivery and guarantee that the change of kingship will not be much for the better. Finally, Macbeth's lifelike head appears on the statutory spike, but of course in this case, it is Sean Bean's head. Precisely! But I might add the head of Edward Hall.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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