Dazzling Macbeth weaves dark magic on the Southampton stage

Macbeth
Macbeth

REVIEW: National Theatre’s Macbeth, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until Saturday, March 2

We’re getting a Macbeth at Chichester Festival Theatre later this year. It is going to have to do remarkably well to come even close to the National Theatre production currently running in Southampton.

A measure of its brilliance is perhaps the pin-drop silence it won from a completely-packed house of largely school and college students.

There were awkward sniggers when Macbeth and Lady M started to get a little amorous at one point; otherwise the production commanded – and was rewarded with – rapt attention.

National Theatre director Rufus Norris gives us a provocative and challenging Macbeth set in an ill-defined post-apocalyptic world on an unpromising-looking set which actually serves it perfectly, ensuring the flow of the action in a production which positively romps through Shakespeare’s study of mental, marital and moral disintegration.

Michael Nardone is hugely impressive as Macbeth, speaking the lines with a lilt and a naturalness which manage both to make them accessible and underline their beauty.

Even more striking though is Kirsty Besterman as his Lady Macbeth, ferocious ambition awaiting its chance and instantly recognising that Macbeth himself is… well, just a little too nice to seize the opportunity.

She knows that she needs to weigh in first. Her “unsex me here” is beautifully delivered. Her “A little water clears us of this deed” shows the extent of her naivety, massively underestimating the horrors she brings down on them both.

The result is gripping…. though it’s not a production without its sillinesses.

Macbeth’s red two-piece and shiny black shirt make him look more a middle-of-the-road lounge crooner than a murderous monarch. The costuming is generally eccentric. Unfathomable even. Is that a dash of Desert Storm at one point?

But there is no doubting the power of the performances and the impact of the whole – Macbeth delivered with passion, oomph and a huge sense of the sheer inevitability of the tragedy which envelops them all.

Phil Hewitt

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