The Tragedy of Macbeth at Almeida Theatre
The anticipation is so high for the Almeida’s all-star production of The Tragedy of Macbeth that its run has already been extended. Brought by award-winning director Yaël Farber, it stars James McArdle, as the titular character, and four-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan making her UK stage debut as Lady Macbeth. Farber creates a chilling atmosphere and focuses on the brutality in Shakespeare’s play, zooming in on violence and its bitter consequences, while deciding to leave aside the mystical undertones of the story.
Macbeth is a general who receives a prophecy from three witches predicting that he will become King of Scotland. Pressed by his wife Lady Macbeth, the protagonist murders King Duncan in order to occupy the throne. Power comes at a high price, however, as he is plagued by guilt and paranoia, and falls into a spiral of infamy and bloodshed.
Farber’s Macbeth is very compelling aesthetically: stark juxtapositions of light and shadow, and fire and water, create a nightmarish picture alongside effective group compositions. The costumes are deliberately simple and neutral so as to be timeless; with the historical context stripped away from the action, priority goes to the overall feel – as is often the case in the director’s work. The eerie mood is mainly achieved through the soundtrack, which features an onstage cellist and is engrossing without being distracting.
Ronan is a lively Lady Macbeth who brings out the frivolousness of the character, rather than her perfidy, while McArdle is an unassuming Macbeth whose actions seem to catch him by surprise. Together, they create a new and different dynamic that seems indeed to belong to a modern society. They are eager for excitement but approach life rather superficially, until the tragic consequences of their actions catch up with them.
While the play is outstanding in its creation of a disquieting atmosphere, the feeling behind Shakespeare’s words is not always palpable. The suit-donning witches are detached and almost clinical in their delivery, and although the bloodshed takes centre stage, the urge that gives birth to it is not felt as strongly. Still, The Tragedy of Macbeth is intense and thrilling. It adheres to the style of popular trending films and series, so it will likely please a younger audience, too.
Interest in the production is so high, in fact, that tickets are being released at staggered intervals, and a number of live-streamed performances have been introduced to give audiences from all over the world a chance to catch the production.
The Tragedy of Macbeth is at Almeida Theatre from 2nd October until 27th November 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.