A mixture of confusion and admiration is felt throughout Iqbal Khan’s production of Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe. The admiration is due to the quality of the acting; the confusion has its roots in the particular choices on the director’s part. The first point to mention is the fact that the Macbeth couple has a little boy. The audience ponders throughout the performance as to why this child is on stage. If he is supposed to be invisible to everyone but the Macbeths, then why do the actors stare at him at the end of the performance? There is much room for individual interpretation to say the least. It was a choice on the director’s part; whether or not it was a good choice is an entirely different matter.
The production is visually spectacular. It can be difficult to bring Macbeth to the stage because there is an aspect of witchcraft and magic that needs to be both seen and felt. This is executed well thanks to the use of a black cloth. At first, spectators may think that the cloth is so obvious that the magical aspect is crushed by a lack of subtleness. But such is not the case. When Macbeth sees a ghost, the silhouette of Duncan’s head is visible through the cloth as his upper body comes out of the floor. It is also used to hide or to accentuate the witches on stage. The voice recording replacing their speech gives them a more mysterious element. The scary side is there, especially with the music in the background.
It is unclear what the costume designers were thinking when picking out the outfits for each actor. At first, it seems as though the play will be carried out in traditional Shakespearian attire. Then, during the second act, while Macbeth and his lady wear velvet capes and gowns, certain characters arrive on stage with leather jackets and others with early to mid 20th century looking formal coats. Is it because Macbeth’s ways are outdated? Is it because there is need for a new king? Is it just an artistic choice? The message is once again unclear.
Not many people go see Macbeth without knowing the plotline. The classic themes of death, greed and violence are clear through the performance. Macbeth is a tragedy yet there are moments when humor is brought into the production. The porter, played by Nadia Albina, brings many laughs as she jokes about contemporary issues in between her lines, from Trump to Brexit. Is this acceptable during a Shakespeare play? Some were chuckling; others were cringing in their seats.
All directing choices aside, Ray Fearon and Tara Fitzgerald portray the Macbeths with great success. The insane aspects of their personalities are well brought into play and their performances are well worth a mention.
Iqbal Khan’s take on Macbeth is traditional yet different at the same time. It is worth seeing for the acting and even if some aspects are a little strange, it remains a captivating night at the theatre.