Macbeth by the RSC 1996

    Directed by Tim Albery

    The Company

    Roger Allam, Philip Quast (Banquo), Janet Whiteside, Susannah Elliott-Knight, Jan Chappet , Brid Brennan, Arthur Cox, Sebastian Harcombe, Simon Westwood, Tim Kelly, Julian Morris, Colum Convey, Jan Chappell,Tom Caster, Daniel Whelan, Robert Demeger, Dav Eahm, David Pullan, Simeon Defoe, Mark Gillis, Stephen Billington, Andrew Hesker, Adrian Schiller, Griffith Jones, Jon Rake, Brian Abbott.

    The Play

    Macbeth and Banquo, generals in the service of Duncan, King of Scotland, are returning victorious from Battle when they are hailed by three witches who prophesy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor anti then King of Scotland. The first part of the prophecy is soon fulfilled when Duncan rewards Macbeth's loyal service: encouraged by this, and playing on her' husband's ambition, Lady Macbeth persuades him to murder Duncan While he is a guest at their castle. Malcolm, Duncan's son and heir, flees to England for safety.

    Macbeth, now King of Scotland, has Banquo murdered in an attempt to secure his own position, but Banquo's ghost appears to him at a banquet.

    Macbeth visits the witches again. They warn him to beware of Macduff, a noble who has also fled to England, but assure him that he cannot be harmed by any man born of woman. Macbeth orders the murder of Macduff's wife and children.

    In England, Macduff and Malcolm raise an arm and march against Macbeth but he, armed with the witches' prophecy, believes himself to be invincible. As his enemies draw nearer, Macbeth learns that his wife is dead and, despite the witches' words, he himself is killed by Macduff. Malcolm is crowned King of Scotland.

    Excerpts from a Review of Macbeth

    Daggers Drawn by Michael Billington
    The Guardian, 18th May 1996

    Dismal', 'A rough night'. Tim Albery's Macbeth is under attack. MICHAEL BILLINGTON rides to the rescue.

    A MONTH ago Tim Albery's Nabucco provoked boos and counter-cheers at Covent Garden. But there was no such passion at Stratford-on-Avon, where his new Macbeth was received with polite applause. I, however, found it a compellingly intelligent production: one that shows the influence both of German theatre and the ENO of the eighties in its stylised lighting, emblematic grouping and inventive use of space.

    Stewart Laing's design and Mimi Jordan Sherin's lighting set the tone: we see a gradual stripping away of layers of illusion as if we are slowly being led towards the barren consequences of tyranny. At first, it is set on raked forestage before black ramparts and a rook-adorned skycloth. This yields to the Macbeths' castle: a stark inhospitable place with beige prefab walls and strip lighting. Eventually this opens up to reveal a painted backcloth depicting the ravaged countryside that is the product of Macbeth's bleak absolutism.

    ... Roger Allam's finely spoken Macbeth is clearly haunted, in this respect, by the contrast between himself and Banquo. He murderously fondles Fleance, is wickedly mocked in the apparition scene by a succession of child Banquos, all - a brilliant touch - adorned with their father's moustache, and even turns up for the slaughter of Macduff's son as if to destroy what he cannot have.

    ... Albery's visual style and analytic brain, however, bind the show together. He doesn't get everything right: the England scene drags and, though one can see his point that with the elevation of Malcolm one emotional wreck succeeds another, it makes the end anti-climactic. But he has a great success with the Porter, whom Adrian Schiller plays superbly as a soused doorman, who finally plunges drunkenly into an on-stage pit; but then Albery, who directed Wallenstein, always was good with people called Schiller. Philip Quast's Banquo, Colum Convey's Macduff and Jan Chappell's Lady Macduff lend weight to a production that skillfully anatomises the emotional emptiness of tyranny: one that also confirms that the RSC is gradually moving away from the collective humanism of the Nunn years towards a more controversial neo-Expressionist aesthetic.

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