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Sunday, 29 May 2011

Theatre - Macbeth - Liverpool Everyman

Star rating – 9/10

I have seen the so called ‘Scottish play’ many times, in many places and with very different interpretation being made of this great tragedy. But I have got to say that this new production at the Liverpool Everyman starring David Morrissey, in something of a homecoming gig, is up there with the best of them. It is the last production at the aging Everyman before it is demolished to make way for a shiny new theatre rising phoenix- like from its ashes, and they are certainly going out with a bang.

The set design is bare and stark, with the concrete stage floor having two great holes gouged out to form bubbling pools; and a huge concrete girder jutting out from on high. And the whole feel of the piece is positively chilling, with the witches playing ‘weird sisters’ to set the tone.

All the praise and plaudits that are coming the way of David Morrissey for his masterful depiction of the complexities of the character of Macbeth are totally deserved. He plays triumphal victory in battle; loving husband; murderous plotter; and his haunted, ill fated fall with equal power. But equal praise must be given to Julia Ford as Lady Macbeth. Last seen by me in the Royal Exchange’s Mogadishu earlier this year, the close relationship between the couple is intrinsic to the success or failure of the play, and this relationship is loving, passionate, intense and totally believable.

I was slightly nervous for Ford, having had only three weeks to rehearse the part after stepping into the shoes at the eleventh hour previously intended to be filled by Jemma Redgrave. But the lack of preparation time certainly did not show at all as she obviously grows into the part. Ford was every bit as commanding as her counterpart Morrissey, and the chemistry between them is exactly as romantic and loving as it needs to be to explain how the murderous plot to kill the king, Duncan, could be hatched and enacted.

There was a highly amusing cameo performance from Richard Bremmer in one of his multitudinous roles as the porter. And Ken Bradshaw as Banquo was great in both earthly and ghostly guises.

But this night was chiefly David Morrisssey’s. It is a triumphal return to his home city in a commanding performance, and his pleasure at and gratitude to the audience for their warm reaction to this treat was a very humble and endearing touch. Full marks to him; to the entire cast; to director Gemma Bodinetz; and most of all to the Everyman. Let’s hope that the new theatre, when it arrives, continues this fine tradition, but with slightly better toilet facilities.

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