Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe Online
You wouldn’t think a show designed for secondary school students would start with a pile of dead bodies, but this Deutsche Bank adaption of Macbeth doesn’t sanitise Shakespeare’s gruesome story. It succeeds in making Macbeth accessible to a younger audience without dumbing it down.
The set design is full of little details which bring some needed comic relief to the show. Balloons which spell “congrats” upon Macbeth’s new title soon just spell out “rats” during the murder scene, while later, little posters of Macbeth’s face with “Tyrant” written across it show the shift in public opinion. The witches’ masters are creepy horror movie dolls – one found in the belly of a pig. Lady Macbeth’s baby-blue jumpsuit, King Duncan’s cream coat and Macbeth’s trainers aren’t exactly medieval, but they are able to give us a sense of the characters without going overboard.
Audience participation adds further comedy to an otherwise stark, bloody tale. A highlight is during the banquet scene, when a hysterical Macbeth breaks the fourth wall and asks the crowd what they think of his trainers, which is a good way to make the audience feel like they’re part of the show. The actors give strong, if not groundbreaking, performances. Aidan Cheng stands out as Malcom and the three witches combine animalistic movement with dastardly words in a nicely sinister performance. Ekow Quartey (Macbeth) and Elly Condron (Lady Macbeth) could be criticised for not giving their characters enough depth at the start of the play, but both show more emotional range as the story develops.
Macbeth explores greed, how power corrupts, guilt, fate and witchcraft, but it’s also about unity between England and Scotland. In this abridged performance, Scotland and England fight together to defeat a tyrant – Macbeth – and then become unified under one flag (the union jack). This invokes the recent debate around Scottish independence and helps students identify the context of Macbeth.
This show is designed for secondary school students, but it can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to develop their understanding of Shakespeare without devoting three hours to it. Deutcshe Bank’s Macbeth keeps all the gore and horror – and actually amps it up in some respects – but also leaves you with a (literal) song and dance, so that you turn off your screen feeling strangely light.
Photo: Ellie Kurttz