Macbeth, National Theatre at Bath Theatre Royal

SOCIAL media, “me too” et al have led a move away from professional reviewers to “citizen journalists”, every one of whom has an equal right to an opinion, and each opinion equally valid.

If you were put off by the almost universal nat­ional press slatings of Rufus Norris’s National Theatre production of Macbeth and you still haven’t booked for the tour stop at Bath Theatre Royal until Saturday 8th December, please think again.

Set on a dark and vertiginous moving slope surrounded by spooky hangings and pseudo-trees, and performed against a soundscape composed by Orlando Gough, this exploration of the mind of a despot is timeless and compelling.

In London the central roles were played by Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff, usually favourites with the critics. Here the roles are taken by Michael Nardone and Kirsty Besterman, leading a powerful ensemble cast in this lucid, shocking and energetic retelling. Norris has cut some of the longer passages and transposed a few of the speeches, but it hasn’t altered the central argument.

It’s less “shouty” than some recent productions of the play, and the moments of total stillness as Macbeth speaks out to the audience add to the tension.

The witches are always a problem for directors. What do you do with Shakespeare’s mechanism for bringing reality and the spirit life together. The plastic climbing hags   are not entirely successful, and on the first night the sound balance was a bit challenging.

But the sexual passion between Macbeth and his wife, and their blindly helpless descent into madness and death after one stupid act of murderous bravado, were chillingly convincing.

Reuben Johnson stepped in, charis­matically, at very short notice to the pivotal role of Banquo.


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