Greenwich Theatre – until 7 March 2020
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Lazarus Theatre open their 2020 season with a fiercely modern Macbeth that is instantly recognisable as a Lazarus production.
Director Ricky Dukes has made some very effective cuts and changes – no “comedy” porter, and the interminable messengers describing battles are absent making the progress from Macduff learning of the murder of his family to his showdown with Macbeth much more tense and immediate. Duncan is no longer the old worthy, but a young wide-eyed, almost child-like, king who we see crowned at the beginning of the play. Malcolm and Donalbain are his younger brothers. For me, this makes the Macbeths’ betrayal slightly less heinous, but an older character would seem out of place in this high energy production. The cast are in modern dress, smartly suited and booted – until the blood is spilt and the Macbeths’ men get filthier as their lord and lady get more violent and unhinged.
The Weird Sisters (David Clayton, Cameron Nelson and Hamish Somers) are exactly that – just weird and a little sad rather than supernatural. Wearing stained aprons and gloves and brandishing microphones, they speak their prophecies to Macbeth and Banquo with an almost detached manner, and after donning bizarre masks their muffled incantations around their cauldron have the intonation of voiceover artists speeding quickly through dodgy terms and conditions in adverts. I loved this humanising and weakening of their powers as it highlights the question of just how much of a push Jamie O’Neill’s Macbeth actually needed to make a murderous grab for the throne, and who is creating the apparitions that haunt him. O’Neill is full of simmering fury as Macbeth, and his naturalistic delivery creates a much more nuanced character than the norm. Alice Emery is a magnificent Lady Macbeth, full of frustrated ambition in a male dominated world, and the force of personality she exerts on Macbeth is palpable. In contrast, her sleepwalking scene is extremely understated, enhancing the shock of her vulnerability.
Ricky Dukes keeps the most successful elements from previous productions – gold confetti showers down on three very different kings as they are crowned, rather than battles, paper is strewn and chairs turned over s the cast scream and race around the theatre, haze and torchlight enhancing the jeopardy, and some inspired lighting design, and it all works together wonderfully. The impressive cast are all utterly convincing switching between roles and have a fantastic and exciting energy together onstage.
A fantastic start to the new season – this is a thrilling and powerful Macbeth full of invention and innovation.