Media (not)Thursday: Macbeth by NTLive

Last week, I saw the cinema broadcast of the National Theatre (England) Live’s Macbeth directed by Rufus Norris, and starring Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff.

Some impressions…

Muscular. I’d call the production muscular. It’s set in a near-future post-apocalyptic world. As the director noted in the pre-show featurette, if you imagine a world without electronics, society would break down pretty quickly, and tribalism would ensue. After the last bullet is shot from the last gun, you’d have the world we encounter in this production.

If you’re looking for a sleek and sexy Macbeth, just move along now, there’s nothing to see here.

I thought both the leads were good, though both needed to grow on me. In the first hour of the play, even though the plotting rocketed past, I was left rather unmoved by either lead. For me, it only got moving (emotionally, not narratively) once Duncan was dead. The banquet scene was excellent, and you could really see both leads beginning to lose their grip on reality. It was the perfect place for the interval; had it come any earlier, and I’m not sure I would have been such a willing audience after the interval. In the second half of the play, however, their performances were top-notch, wonderfully emotional.

There were a few great directorial choices. The set, with a huge metal arch bridge on a rotating stage, emphasized the muscularity of the interpretation. The music, discordant notes and blasts from horns and strings, was wonderfully, eerily, evocative (if not outright provocative). The delivery of the prophecies to Macbeth in the second half of the play was wonderfully grotesque and uncanny. There were judicious cuts to the script, including the excising of pretty much the entire first half of the interminable Act Four meeting between Malcolm and Macduff. Macduff also serves as the bloody soldier early in the play, noting Macbeth’s prowess on the battlefield and showing not a little admiration; post-murder, his expository conversation is with his wife (which I’ve done before, and like then, I think it’s a smart move).

My director for Much Ado About Nothing Vivien Latham also attended the screening, and it was fun to debrief with her afterwards. She asked if any of this gave me ideas for my own production. I think I may have shocked her by saying I didn’t want to direct the Scottish Play…that I wanted so very badly to play Macduff in a production, but no desire to direct the damned thing. I said that I felt about it much like I feel about Lear: a billion ways to get it wrong, no way to get it right.

But as Lisa and I drove home, and we talked about the play, I realized that I do have a bunch of ideas on staging it, and in a way, I kinda do want to direct it, but that it terrifies me. That’s a good thing, right?

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