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Sunday, 17 March 2013

James McAvoy as Macbeth is Bloody Brilliant

This weekend my husband and I had a long weekend in London, mostly so that we could go and see James McAvoy in Macbeth, and boy was it worth it. I can say that this production of Macbeth is bloody brilliant and I meant that quite literally.

Now if you don't like the sight of blood this is not the production for you. Half the cast are covered in it for half the play and the floor gets covered at least twice. That being said, the blood is not over the top since this is a very violent version of the play.

Please be aware this review will contain spoilers for the staging of the production, I'm pretty sure most people reading this already know what happens in the play ;).

For those who do not know, this version uses the original text, but is set in a distopian Scotland of the near future. It is all about conflict and it shows it in spades. It is definitely the most exciting version of Macbeth I have ever seen.

First of all there was one thing I was slightly unimpressed with, but that had nothing to do with what was going on, on the stage. The theatre is small and the seats are cramped and not very comfortable. However, I was so enrapt in the play that I only noticed these things when the actors left the stage, i.e. the interval and the end. That was when I discovered my bum was numb and it was stiflingly hot. Take water if you are going to see this; you will need it.

It's a slightly odd layout in that the front rows at both the front and the back of the stage are actually on the stage. It looked very exciting to be on the front row, a little too exciting for some people. At one point I think one lady thought she was about to be decapitated by a machete and I am sure one chap shrank about a foot when he was yelled at by Macbeth.

Okay, on to the play.

It grabs your attention straight away with a bang and then never lets go. I was thoroughly impressed with the whole cast who delivered their lines in such a way that it was totally understandable. I know Macbeth quite well, having studied it at school and never forgotten (well done Shakespeare and Miss Spittle), but Rob didn't know it as well and he thought it was incredibly clear. I've seen some plays where the cast have delivered the dialogue so badly it's unintelligible, but this production didn't have one speech I didn't get.

Then there is the acting. James McAvoy is stunningly good. He entered the stage and immediately owned it. The fact he was banging a machete and an axe on the ground probably helped, but he didn't really need it. He was commanding and engaging and, boy, is he strong and fast. In his soliloquies he filled the stage, which was a hell of a job with the audience all round, and when he was sharing the stage he gelled with all the other characters.

Macbeth's decent from hero to tyrant was shown in every word he spoke and every action he made. He was marvellous from his first hug with Banquo (Forbes Masson), to his final, bloody death throws thanks to Macduff (Jamie Ballard). This is an incredibly physical production; no standing around just spouting lines and McAvoy shows his strength and flexibility at every turn. There is also beautiful chemistry between him and Claire Foy as Lady Macbeth.

Which is a nice sidestep onto Lady Macbeth, for she was also fantastic. Her "Out damn spot..." was a work of utter beauty. It's really a shame that Lady Macbeth doesn't have a huge death scene like Macbeth, because she would have been epic. She went from conniving wife, to completely batty with wonderful fluidity and the way she and Macbeth get very cosy a time or two was nicely hot.

The one scene where McAvoy basically drags Foy around the stage it utterly amazing. The tension is incredible.

As I have said before the whole cast were marvellous and I could go into raptures about all of them, from the witches to Macduff's son, but it would take me far too many words. Hence I will mention the other two stand out performances for me: Forbes Masson as Banquo and Jamie Ballard as Macduff.

Banquo was every bit the firm friend to Macbeth. There was no doubting they were comrades in arms and men who had had each other's backs. It was there in all their interaction and made is so much more poignant when that fell apart. Masson was wonderful throughout, but he really shone in the banquet scene, where he ends up nose to nose on a table with Macbeth before being drenched in blood from the ceiling.

Then there is Macduff. The scene where he finds out about the death of his wife and children actually made me cry. There is a part where Ballard actually howls in grief and that just did it for me. That was it, I blubbed. I think it was the most heart-wrenching scene from Shakespeare I have ever seen on stage. Simply amazing.

I wish I could go back and see it all again, even with the uncomfortable seats and incredible heat. It was utterly fantastic. The best Macbeth I have ever seen and not just because I am a huge fan of James McAvoy.

Then there was the standing outside the stage door to get an autograph from James. The first thing I have to say, is thanks to my long suffering husband for standing with me and taking pictures. I would have liked to grab a few of the others for autographs too, but it's really quite hard to figure out who are actors when everyone is bundled up in hats and scarves and not covered in blood - who knew ;).

We waited for quite some time, but it was worth it. James came out and signed and talked and had photos taken. He is such a lovely man; genuinely sweet and so nice to everyone.

Thank you James.

I'm pretty sure I didn't make a complete idiot out of myself, although I did discover that silver sharpies do not like the cold. It worked, but barely.

And there you have it, the highlight of my weekend.

This is a superb production and, if they aren't completely sold out, you should all go and get tickets.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. It's really lovely to read a non-press review that doesn't just go on and on about how attractive McAvoy is and thus totally misses the point of the play. You've restored my faith in McAvoy fans and, of course, made me all the more excited to see the production. Thanks again so much!

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    Replies
    1. You're most welcome, thank you so much for commenting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did :).

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