You never forget your first Shakespeare soliloquy…if you’re partial to The Bard. And I am.
Etched in my memory bank from a blessed time at school is the recital in class and on paper of an entanglement, puzzle and conundrum of yesteryear’s poetic word’s of mirth, drama and tragedy. Ah, Shakespeare.
Last night, as I sat in the Theatre Royal watching Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth, the spotlight fell on Macbeth on stage (and on me in my mind) as he delivered the captivating words that display exquisitely Macbeth’s downward spiral into madness and murder.
Methough I herad a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more!’
Macbeth does murder sleep — the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast
No longer am I in the classroom proudly rhyming off the soliloquy to an impressed teacher and classmates (all in my mind of course. Perhaps Macbeth affected me more than I knew) capturing the tortured thoughts and inner turmoil of a man slowly losing his mind.
For those of you who had the pleasure of learning Macbeth in school you will recall why Macbeth’s mind is ravaged. A prophecy seed has been planted by three sister witches. The haggered witches appear in an eerie, dank, cavernous hollow and set the opening scene
When shall we meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
That will be ere the set of sun.
Where the place?
Upon the heath.
There to meet with Macbeth
The witches are superb. With unkempt long bedraggled hair and transparent rags they dart about manically on stage, now and then hanging up a tree which they skoot up and down to deliver simple words that deliver death in the interpretation.
The witches hail Macbeth as king. Once he hears this their mental deed is done.
(Thankfully for the young teenagers in the audience we weren’t sitting in an exam room with shuffling feet and an air of panic as the most terrifying word is read next on an exam paper following a Macbeth excerpt – DISCUSS)
What then follows along nicely (in a Game of Thrones sort of way) in the play is death. Of friends, family and of a soul. Shakespeare’s words weave an intricate web and are written like a mathematically-inspired Escher drawing with stairs leading everywhere and nowhere. No escape so on it continues.
There’s a post-apocalyptic feel to this Macbeth. A bloody civil war has raged and ruined in Scotland and Macbeth enters with friend Banquo played by the accomplished actor Patrick Robinson.
Robinson’s voice and delivery commands the stage as does Kirsty Besterman (Father Brown) who plays an incredible role as Lady Macbeth – I could watch her act in anything. She has that rare stage presence that could work as a one-woman show – I would have given a standing ovation for her alone.
Ross Waiton as Macduff delivers a credible and polished performance. As polished as the rugged landscape and heathen backdrop allows.
The main role is acted by Michael Nardone who played DCI Whiteside in River City and Frisky in The Night Manager. When you have an image of Macbeth ingrained from such a young age it’s hard to shake it and I’d always imagined an Angus Macfadyen-type who so brilliantly played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart many moons ago, playing the challenging role. Michael Nardone’s lines were delivered but didn’t hang or sink in like Lady Macbeth, Banquo or Macduff’s.
The same is true of Malcolm played by Glaswegian rising actor Jospeh Brown who I could have sworn all the way through the show was a younger Billy Boyd. Joseph sounded too effeminate for such a role. Though Shakespeare’s lines ought to be delivered quickfire they still need to be audible but sadly (perhaps due to first night nerves) Joseph’s were more of a mumble.
All in it’s well acted, the stage set is very atmospheric and it’s worth going to see if not to bring back memory’s of your first time with Macbeth then to introduce Shakespeare and Macbeth to a younger audience who will see and hear genius through a youthful set of senses.
Macbeth is produced by the National Theatre who also created the excellent The Curious Incident of the Dog.
review by Susie Daniels
The play is on until Saturday 23 February at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal