(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/30.)
This is not like any Macbeth I have ever seen. Directed and translated by Ariane Mnouchkine and performed by the 50-year-old Théâtre du Soleil in the company’s former munitions factory at Vincennes, in the eastern suburbs of Paris, it runs close to four hours, has a cast of 45 and is opulently theatrical. But, whatever the production lacks in narrative propulsion, it gains in richly detailed visualisation.
Mnouchkine does, however, take a clear line on the play: it is not the world Shakespeare represents that is evil, only certain people within it. Her modern-dress Macbeth begins as a victorious general is pursued by camera crews, and when his guest, Duncan, announces “This castle hath a pleasant seat”, he speaks the literal truth: Lady Macbeth is first seen in a seductive, rose-filled kitchen garden.