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Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Theatre - Macbeth - The Globe

Star rating – 9/10

Something wicked has certainly come the way of the Globe this spring. Lucy Bailey last impressed me with her excellent Julius Caesar at Stratford last year, and she has triumphed again with this gory and corpse ridden version of Macbeth.

To be fair the audience are warned before they enter that this is not for the fainthearted. The Globe theatre is transformed into a dark mass of bodies as the standing audience have to poke their heads through a black cloth that shrouds the courtyard. The same cloth serves to reveal bloody soldiers, corpses, and witches alike during the performance. And three hours is a long time to be standing in the unseasonably cold London weather poking your head through a black cloth I would have thought, but as I was in one of the seated areas I didn’t let that concern myself too much.

Elliot Cowan is a great Macbeth. He does seem to suit these major Shakespearean roles, shining here as he did in the Royal Exchange’s excellent ‘Henry V’ a couple of years ago. His ambition and resulting torment are clear to see, and he pays a high price for his treachery. But then he was egged on by those awful witches. And I am very glad that these witches are properly evil creatures, not played by children as in the Royal Exchange’s version last year, something which felt all wrong to me. No, here the witches are corpse devouring creatures from the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth is played with a fragile quality by Laura Rogers. The raunchy passion of the couple is greeted by wolf whistles by some of the younger members of the Globe audience. And the whole design of the set and the way that the action unfolds encourages participation in the tragedy as it unfolds which must have been akin to the feel of its original performances.

In amongst the blood and corpses however, is a wonderfully funny comic turn by Frank Scantori as Porter, who pretends to throw urine at the audience to their shrieks of delight and horror. And that just about sums up how I felt about this production – thoroughly delighted and utterly horrified. Thumb pricking stuff indeed.

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