Monday 2 July 2007

Fair is foul

To Stratford-on-Avon on Saturday, to see Conall Morrison's production of Macbeth, part of the RSC's 'Complete Works' season. The main theatre is closed now for a couple of years for a major refurbishment, so we were in the more intimate Swan Theatre round the back, where we saw Tamsin Greig in the Cuban-set Much Ado About Nothing last year. This was a rather darker experience, the grim drama on stage complemented by the stormy weather outside.

There were some powerful performances - notably the superb Patrick O'Kane in the title role, Derbhle Crotty as Lady Macbeth and Jude Akuwudike as Banquo - but we weren't convinced by Morrison's interpretation of the play. An additional - gratuitously bloodthirsty - opening scene was added, which undermined any sense of Macbeth as an initially noble leader slowly warped by ambition. And the famous 'night porter' scene, whose humour usually defuses the murderous tension in the second act, was spoiled by substituting the witches for the porter, thus adding to the sense of unrelenting grimness. There was a more than usually Celtic feel to the production, with a mixture of Irish and Scots accents on stage, plus a leavening of black voices from an ethnically diverse cast.

The 'Complete Works' festival is coming to a close, and it's been an amazing season. We've seen a number of productions, mostly comedies - our way of gradually introducing our teenage offspring to Shakespeare - and they've been almost uniformly impressive. We even surprised ourselves by enjoying the musical version of The Merry Wives of Windsor earlier this year, but then, with Judi Dench and Simon Callow starring, it couldn't really fail.

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