Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe
A balmy summer’s evening doesn’t initially seem right for Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy, but given the tendency of the Globe’s new production to focus on the play’s humour, the weather proves rather apt.
Joseph Millson stars as the Scottish Thane with ideas above his station in this traditional dress production at this most traditional of playhouses. Spurred towards his destiny by the prophecy of the three witches and his scheming wife, Macbeth is driven to regicide and escalating mania as he plots to bring the witches’ prophecy to fruition.
Eve Best, known for her role in Nurse Jackie, makes her Globe directing debut here and it is clear from the outset that she is keen to bring out the comedy within the play. From an initially exuberant Lady Macbeth, to the comic turn of Bette Bourne as an inspired Porter, this production rattles along at a cheerful pace. This emphasis however does come at the expense of the tragic heart of Shakespeare’s Scottish play. In Macbeth we are supposed to find a tragic anti-hero, someone we know is doing wrong, yet whom we can sympathise with in his downfall. There is no such sympathy here. Macbeth’s motives feel rushed throughout and although Millson is able to deliver a line, he lacks the gravitas that a slower and deeper reading of the text may have brought him.
Samantha Spiro as Lady Macbeth is the production’s greatest draw, commanding the stage and the verse in a way that Millson is unable. Always the more intriguing of the pair, her dramatic abilities make her near absence in the second act all the more noticeable. Millson does however deliver the famous “sound and fury” speech with a quiet desperation and indeed it is in the play’s quieter moments when he is given the chance to stand still that he really shines.
Moyo Akandé, Jess Murphy and Cat Simmons also give impressive turns as the three witches, and they are choreographed well by Charlotte Broom and Siân Williams. Equally, Macbeth’s coronation scene, along with the appearance of Banquo’s ghost are also well directed and choreographed, and the constant toing and froing of Macbeth’s crown ties the play together well.
By placing such emphasis on Shakespeare’s easy knack for comedy, Best has made this production a pleasant summer treat, but she has done so at the expense of Macbeth’s darker motives.
Macbeth is at the Globe Theatre until 13th October 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.