Macbeth in the Granite City
by Darryl Peers
courtesy of Birnkhoff-Mogenburg via nationaltheatre.org.uk
It isn’t often enough that we see Shakespeare’s plays come to Aberdeen, so it was with real excitement that I walked the city streets on my way to see Macbeth at HMT. This was an excellent production of Macbeth, yet perhaps with a few opportunities to make it special which were regrettably passed over.
The play is a masterpiece: a fascinating portrait of how one can be undone by their own deeds. It’s a story that carries through the ages and, indeed, the National Theatre production now touring through Aberdeen casts itself as set ‘now, after a civil war’. Setting the play in the modern day is an excellent idea, but the clichéd post-apocalyptic props and staging which has been used to convey this left me pining after the original, with its medieval castles and forests. The bleak, waste-filled backdrop served more often to obstruct the play’s overall effect than to enhance it. It is a difficult play to transpose into a modern setting, so if that is going to be attempted then the text adaptation should really reflect the decision. We ended up with a backdrop which influenced the play’s content in no way whatsoever.
The acting, though, was convincing throughout, overcoming the distraction of the setting and staging. Our Macbeth, Michael Nardone, laid the anger and volume on a bit thick at times, leaving his portrayal of the intricate character one-dimensional, flat, and, at times, uninteresting. Many scenes might have benefited from a change in gear; lines often lacked the chill that a subtler delivery might have given them. The same could be thought of Kirsty Besterman’s Lady Macbeth. That said, there was also excellent acting to be seen. Patrick Robinson was phenomenal as Banquo, seeming right at home in the world of the play.
The play as a whole shone despite its casting and staging issues, in part due to a superbly adapted script, which has been put together for this production by Dr. Paul Prescott from the University of Warwick. Purchasers of the programme will find an insightful article of his, which looks at adaptations of Macbeth through the ages – an interesting read.
The diction of all the actors, so vital in word-dependent plays such as Shakespeare’s, was incredible. This is where the ultimate success of the production lay. Theatre-goers are in for a treat when they turn up for this adaptation of the Scottish play, directed by Rufus Norris. The essence of Shakespeare has been honoured every step of the way. We do not see enough of plays like this coming to Aberdeen and I strongly urge those who can to go and see it. The National Theatre should be commended for supporting such a project and taking it on a national tour. It is a privilege to have a Shakespeare play come to town – may it not be so long ‘til we see it again in the Granite City.