Sunday, May 01, 2011

Theatre Review: Royal Gala Performance of Macbeth, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Saturday 30 April 2011

The Scottish Play: a dark tale about the ursurping of Kings; about blood feuds between families; about the murder of husbands, wives, families and servants; about bloody deeds and bloody thoughts; of the instability of countries and belief.

Perfect then as a follow-up to THAT event on Friday 29 April 2011, especially with HRH Prince of Wales in the audience as the President of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Michael Boyd's efforts to josh at the end of the play didn't feel THAT convincing...

The play itself is a rather curious production, but fascinating to see: Jonathan Slinger is great as the titular king, tortured by doubts at various points, trying but not entirely believing in the prophecies that grant him power. The transformation of the witches is weird on many levels, but I rather liked this envisaging of them as it made an unnerving contrast to regular interpretations of the Weird Sisters (hey: I read the Sandman novels and they make play with variations of these characters). Certainly, the creepy-factor is upped and then some to change the witches in this way, though I'm still a bit too freshly believing in the magisterial version of Macbeth with Patrick Stewart to be totally convinced. (Indeed, in that respect what WAS really nice was to see the reappearance of the excellent Scott Handy as Ross: brilliant performance.) There are many good performances in this production, not least from Steve Toussaint who had been so good in the Nottingham Twelfth Night production we saw last year. (Which I shamefully do not seem to have reviewed).

The music, as ever in RSC productions, was wonderful: all hail our three cello players with Craig Armstrong's music. Haunting and brittle in turn. The sets also are wonderfully conceived - not least the additional entrance available at the back of the stage at balcony level. And the use of the broken/complete stained glass windows was magical.

Definitely worth seeing, though perhaps unlikely to win plaudits as a best ever Macbeth.

Plenty of nobs in the audience, and we probably could have blagged our way up to the do afterwards had we been so inclined. (or not - security felt v discrete). We never actually saw HRH - we were in the circle, facing the stage, but he was clearly seated underneath us due to the turning of heads in that direction at various moments. There was even some efforts being made at surreptitious photo taking by excited attendees. Rather amusing to watch from above.

Prince meets children

Reviews will spoiler particular casting decisions but it depends if you're attending.

Guardian Review
Telegraph Review
Stage Review

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