The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Citizens' Theatre and YouTube June 2021
Citizens' Theatre director Dominic Hill has cut-and-pasted Shakespeare's
Macbeth into an intimate two-character psychological drama that sustains
its almost exhausting intensity through just under an hour's running
largely in extreme close-ups, actors Keith Fleming and Charlene Boyd
bring us deeper into the Scottish Play than most full-length stage
Hill edits the
text cleverly and sensitively, sometimes converting dialogue into
narrative, sometimes the other way around. For example, his version
opens with Macbeth's letter to his wife describing the witches, but
played as a pillow-talk conversation between the two.
This gets a
half-hour of plot out of the way efficiently and also establishes the
intimacy and complicity of the couple.
The one bit of
textual tinkering that doesn't quite work in this modern-dress
production, because it's a little too gimmicky, is fitting in scenes not
involving the Macbeths by having the couple listen to tape recordings
from presumably bugged locations, like the murder of Banquo.
And yet Hill
also makes very effective use of the device a couple of times, as the
spirits of the witches haunt the recorder to deliver the gnomic false
reassurances of Macbeth's invulnerability. And at least once it
significantly enriches the play.
Early on, just
before Lady Macbeth says she would kill her own child if she had sworn
to it, we watch her fondle some baby clothes and toys, and realise she
has in fact lost a child. And later it is listening to the tapes of the
attack on Macduff's family – and specifically the cries of the children
– that drives her mad, leading directly into the Sleepwalking Scene.
directorial touch that effectively colours the whole play is to have the
actors retain the bloody clothes and hands from Duncan's murder
have been led by their director to courageous performances that hold
nothing back while bringing us deep into the characters' torments.
Drenched in sweat throughout, Keith Fleming's Macbeth is a man living
constantly on his raw nerve endings, unable to pause between extremes of
excitement, fear, determination and despair.
repeatedly does what no actress wants to do as she lets herself become
ugly in extreme close-up as Lady Macbeth is driven by uncensored
passions. And then, having been the demon driving her wavering husband
in the early scenes, she wins back our sympathy as she crumbles in the
This may be
Macbeth-condensed, but it is in no way Macbeth-lite.
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