Macbeth Review

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre York – until Friday 31st August 2018.

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson


The theatre is Europe’s first ever pop up Shakespearean theatre, though there have been a few worldwide. Set within a Shakespearean village, offering good old Yorkshire food and drink, it is only open until 2nd September. I was looking forward to visiting the theatre after seeing it being built over the last few weeks, taking over part of Clifford’s Tower car park.

I am going to make an admission now, I don’t believe I have ever read or seen any adaptation of Macbeth, on screen, and definitely not a live show before. Shock horror I know. Obviously, I was aware of certain aspects of the tale, the witches for one, and the decent into madness off Macbeth, so in some respects saw the show “blind”. Macbeth, directed by Damien Crueden, the Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal, is the first of the four Shakespearean plays I will be seeing.

The theatre itself is amazing, from the outside with it’s angular construction, to inside with scaffolding all around, which doesn’t look out of place. Seats are staggered around a pit, where you can buy “groundling” tickets for only £12.50, and then an impressive wooden stage with large double doors in the centre, a balcony above, two staircases each side with entrances beneath, allowing the actors to come and go. Musicians, three I believe, sat even higher, in the gods.

With the beating of the drums and the opening bloody battle scene, along with smoke coming up through the stage floor, I could feel my heart pumping seeing the action unfold before my eyes, what a buzz that was. With the battle won Macbeth has his head turned by the witches with a prophecy that he will soon be Thane of Cawdor and later King. Consumed by ambition and spurred into action by his wife, Lady Macbeth, he murders King Duncan, taking the crown for himself. Wracked with guilt and paranoia, what unfolds is a tale of betrayal and madness full of death.

Working without microphones, occasionally the vocals were somewhat muffled, but this didn’t detract from the performance, and overall their projection was magnificent. All the acting was superb and one of the most memorable moments for me was when Banquo is set upon, the slashing of his legs before his ultimate death, made me cringe in my seat. Another was when Macbeth could see Banquo’s ghost all around him, much to the bemusement of all around him. The desent into madness of Macbeth, his seeing ghosts, his betrayal of those around him, was quite riveting. Richard Standing was excellent, but so we’re all the cast.

During the interval a few of the cast mingled with the groundings and all I could hear was, is your sword real, and can I touch it? During the whole performance the pit was used for comings and goings and must have been a great for those stood in that area. The music and bounding of the drums were so very effective, especially during the gory battle scenes and murders, very powerful and atmospheric.