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Macbeth, Trafalgar Studios, 14/2/13

Starring James McAvoy as Macbeth & Claire Foy as Lady Macbeth

first up, Trafalgar Studio's main space has been re-configured into a sort-of-in the round theatre of stage at bottom of the pit with several hundred seats on one side, on stage (but still lightly raked) seats (22) on the other which is also where they put disabled seating. So it creates a sense of being in the gods looking down on the action even when you have very decent seats. And the view is good from pretty much everywhere.

Anyhoo, first off, setting notes - generic post-apocalyptic Serbia-Bosnia-Herzegovina war-torn setting of bases that you get in a *lot* of Macbeths these days - means you can go with ratty jumpers and combats and dirty coats and so on, which is cheap and doesn't have the chainmail problems. And you can mix guns and fucking great machetes. (James McAvoy with fuck-off giant machete as his main weapon was... a tad scary. he had a habit of holding it under peoples' chins in a vicelock.) Still, a bit bored of this. looking fondly back on the Liverpool Everyman's because that was more skewed towards WW1/WW2 in mood and look. However, there was the most hysterical set of notes in the program about this being the result of climate change and Scotland's response to this and citing of Doomsday of all things and weird weather in the play being a marker of this. Seriously. Find better filler. We don't need any notes to justify this set dressing. As well as a piece about how dictators and despots can come from the most unexpected humble beginnings, citing Stalin, Hitler and Ceaucescu's poor beginnings. Um. Seriously? Because...no. Macbeth is a) not a dictator or despot and b) did not order the death of swathes of his own people.

Anyhoo, what you want to know about: nearly all the cast is Scots, and it's all done in various Scots accents. Macbeth is played rather a lot younger than normal - late 20s at *most* field soldier and leader with a bit of the adult John Connor about him. (been fighting a guerilla war for a long time, and the general mood is ongoing guerilla war - you get the feeling that what Macbeth gets isn't so much a kingdom as head of their forces/territory, reinforced by the fact that feasts are beans and eaten and grabbed quickly by everyone present. mood is generally rowdy and beer driven) Very savage, quick to violence once threatened or spooked, off kilter with the pressure and inclined to go along with things but goes full loopy once he gets power.

Lady Macbeth (Claire Foy) starts a bit tentative (it was previews, so we can sort of forgive her) but stays mostly in despairing and holding on by her fingernails once the balls start rolling. She's part of what emphasises the fact that they're *young*. This isn't years in the making, this is a quick grab for power. Oh, and the relationship isn't manipulative in any way, which is very different from nearly all the Macbeths I've seen. And she's very, very clearly coming off having lost the baby *very* recently - a lot of the times when Macbeth is holding her, or thinking she's going off on one, or trying to calm her down and comfort her, his hand goes to her stomach and they pause together. 'I have given suck and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me' is almost an inward line, and Macbeth can't believe she's saying those lines, cupping her stomach directly after like it was a lashing out cry of despair, not actually meant or venomous like it usually is. Her sleepwalking is almost an afterthought. The doctor doesn't take it that seriously - it's a bit of a concern, but you get the feeling that it's not uncommon in their society.

Other notes: They cut the 'double-double toil and trouble' witches' speech entirely - Macbeth turns up to see the witches, and grabs the potion to drink for visions. (oh, and there's a thing of masks going on for othering purposes - the witches wear gas masks and appear out of traps in the floor, the hired murderers wear animal masks) It's generally fairly bloody but not in the way you're led to believe - blood falls from the ceiling to emphasise some scenes like Macbeth's death and most of the violence is up close and personal.

Other characters: Macduff is a shell-shocked father. Lady Macduff is very... hardy traveller/farmer if that makes sense? Inured and not tragic. And gets strangled using cheesewire. mini-macduff is actually less violent than usual - he's hiding in the cupboard under the table his mother was strangled on, Macbeth leaves the room, comes back to check, hears a sound, then stabs the cupboard in the place he's figured out the kid is in. It's more a commentary on Macbeth's focussed kill-mode than the horror tragedy angle this scene is normally played as. Duncan - boisterous but old. Malcolm - so not ready for any of it, and fairly clearly sheltered with a side order of studious. you're not even sure he's been out doing much fighting, which honestly doesn't make much sense. When he's giving the lechery speech, Macduff just sweeps it aside since it's clear it's not that important, or so out of reach in the ongoing guerilla war that it's like Malcolm's saying that he wants a pony. 'right, you want women and money constantly - we'll get it, it's not that big a deal, why are you making such a big speech about it.'

Stage door: I was first there and there was already a queue of autograph sellers. Seriously, fuck off. Still, us fans gossed re: McAvoy and Shakespeare Retold and figuring out what Claire had been in Being Human (George's ex in the pilot, and she was surprised when we asked and got it right) And James was very nice and went 'fuck that was a while ago' when I said I'd been looking forward to see how this would compare to the chef version.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 19th, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC)
That sounds awesome. I really loved the Everyman version - although I was disappointed that Jemma Redgrave didn't perform in the end, since I'm really intrigued by her playing against type like that - and I really want to see this. V interested to see how Foy handles the part.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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