By Bob Shuman

Director Simon Godwin’s structured, composed descent into the “defilement of a mind” in Macbeth is objective and clear, filmed unpoetically, yet sustained with uniformly standout performances.  The conception is Brechtian and modern, which allows for hard analysis (the adapter is Emily Burns). Shakespeare’s verbal descriptions, which often start scenes, can be envisioned as eventually forming a base point for the German playwright’s  well-known text above the proscenium.  The uncluttered setting by Frankie Bradshaw, made up of six steps to a platform (with side wings of stairs), uses photography of the audience at a live theatre performance, as well as their laughter and applause.  The story’s plot points register, which, in other versions can get lost, especially as the focus shifts away from the husband-and-wife murderers.  Between the Early Modern English and the supernatural elements, as well as its change from hearth to battlefield, Macbeth is an economic tour de force, but only if you can track it. Because of its precision, this interpretation can be especially helpful for students.

Ralph Fiennes (Tony and BAFTA Award-winner) made an impact  with his ancient Roman conqueror in Antony and Cleopatra (another play he helped disentangle) and, hopefully, that same sense of discovery will inform others who now come to the Scottish play.  The work is straight to the audience and physical:  he kneels at Lady Macbeth’s womb, takes a fetal position on the floor, and engages in heavy swordplay.  He is also an older actor playing the iconic role, which highlights a strange contradiction in the text and challenges anyone playing the part.  The issue is that Macbeth murders in order to become king, and spends a good amount of time preserving his title and succession.  However, the character has no heirs: for all his raging about wearing “a fruitless crown” and “holding a barren scepter,” there is no one to accept a legacy. The audience may be able to rationalize a younger Macbeth as someone who will still be able to start a family, but an older Macbeth, who is childless, has lower chances of becoming a father (he’s worried about succession, when there is none).  If Macbeth does not have a prince, it is a moot point whether Banquo “shalt get kings.”  Imagine also the kind of life Macbeth’s child (if there was one) would have, growing up among killers and the chilling distortions of their minds.

Indira Varma (Olivier Award-winner) makes a formidable Lady Macbeth:  She’s practical, realistic, and goading—and her diction and gestures are impeccable (look at her outstretched arms and hands—she’s unafraid of large physical description and pronouncement). Macbeth can trust her to make untenable choices, and she is bold in their implementation, at least until she, too, succumbs to the nightmare in her mind.  Each of the actors has created very specific, well-thought-out characterizations.  In a sea of impressive work, there really is no mediocre, unindividuated performance–from witches to soldiers to courtiers and advisors, even children.  Two further bright lights are:  Rebecca Scroggs, who takes on a pair of no-nonsense roles:  Lady Macduff, in a brown and yellow checkered housecoat, and Lady Macbeth’s doctor, with a Red Cross armband.  Ben Turner’s Macduff is also exemplary, fusing correct language presentation and valor—for those who appreciate the steadiness of a Shakespearean line expressed, this cast delivers laudably.  Think of how difficult it must be to bring together over twenty cast members, not to mention other theatre professionals, in a high-quality Shakespeare performance.  The sharp work presented here, from The Shakespeare Company, can help make up for the lack of Shakespeare in the Park, in New York City, this season, while the Delacorte Theater is being remodeled.  

A very palpable hit.

 

© by Bob Shuman

Ticketing information:

 

MACBETH

Cinema Release Date: Thursday, May 2, and Sunday, May 5

Cinema Website: MacbethInCinemas.com 

Distributor: Trafalgar Releasing

Adapter: Emily Burns

Director: Simon Godwin

Set & Costume Designer: Frankie Bradshaw

Lighting Designer: Jai Morjaria 

Sound Designer: Christopher Shutt

Composer: Asaf Zohar

Sound System Design: Christopher Shutt & Sam Clarkson

Movement Director: Lucy Cullingford

Hair, Make Up and Prosthetics Designer: Susanna Peretz

Fight Director: Kate Waters

Casting Director: Amy Ball CDG

Children’s Casting Director: Ellie Collyer-Bristow CDG

Voice & Dialect Coach: Jeannette Nelson

Associate Director: Alice Wordsworth

Associate Set Designer: Ceci Calf

Associate Costume Designer: Olivia Ward

Associate Lighting Designer: Tom Turner

Casting Associate: Arthur Carrington

Cast:

Ralph Fiennes , Indira Varma, Ben Allen, Ewan Black, Levi Brown, Jonathon Case, Danielle Fiamanya, Keith Fleming, Michael Hodgson, Lucy Mangan, Jake Neads, Richard Pepper, Steffan Rhodri, Rose Riley, Rebecca Scroggs, Lola Shalam, Ethan Thomas, Ben Turner 

For tickets and a full list of participating cinemas, please visit MacbethInCinemas.com

NYC area theaters where Macbeth will be playing:

Barrymore Film Center: 153 Main Street, Fort Lee, N.J. 07024

Regal New Roc & IMAX: 33 LeCourt Place, New Rochelle, NY 10801

Regal UA Kaufman Astoria: 35-30 38th Street, Long Island City, NY 11101

Regal Times Square: 247 W. 42nd Street, NY., NY. 10036

Macbeth is presented by Trafalgar Releasing. To secure your tickets and witness this must-see event, visit MacbethInCinemas.com.

About Trafalgar Releasing

Trafalgar Releasing, the global leader in event cinema distribution, harnesses the power of cinema to bring fans together in more than 15,000 cinemas across 132 countries.  A subsidiary of Trafalgar Entertainment, Trafalgar Releasing’s operations include production, acquisition, marketing, and distribution of live or pre-recorded content to cinemas worldwide led by an international team based in the UK, US and Germany. Featuring live concerts, music documentaries, award-winning theatre, world-class opera and ballet, and more from leading names in entertainment such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, BTS, Coldplay, Billie Eilish, the Royal Opera House, Concord Originals, Hasbro and others, Trafalgar Releasing has repeatedly shattered event cinema box office records, most recently with international distribution for TAYLOR SWIFT | THE ERAS TOUR, the highest-grossing concert film of all time. Information about Trafalgar Releasing can be found at www.trafalgar-releasing.com.

(Photo credit:  © Marc Brenner; via John Singh)

 

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