Shakespeares infamous Macbeth comes to the Nottingham stage as part of a national tour by the National Theatre. Tragedy it is said follows the production, some even utter the term “cursed” in relation to this play. Carrying the superstition throughout the 4 centuries since its first inception. One that still haunts! Rufus Norris’ take on the tragedy, sheds its traditional setting of highland castles. For creative use of taking the audience to the aftermath of a civil war in a bleak post-apocalypse potential future. One wonders if there’s a subtle hint of a post-brexit/Scottish independence to the director going with this vision?

The sound drawing upon clarinet and low-deep horn. Tracing the moments subtly, rather than bombastic. On a dominating set designed by Rae Smith, black trees of shredded bin liners sway in the swirling mists, an innovative bridge extending into the background, holding centre and moving left to right creating smaller enclosed tight box environments for the cast to gather. Beginning with nimble rain-macked witches wielding strange prophecies. Costumes compromised of combat gear, strapped armour and layered dust coats convey the scavenger-Mad Max like atmosphere. For the squeamish may wish to cover their eyes the show opening brings the brutality home with a graphic first decapitation of the night by Macbeth, a man of conviction portrayed sternly on stage by grizzled veteran Michael Nardone. I did struggle to understand his horror and disgust at the blood on his hands, once he kills the king. Despite being a murderer in the opening. Nardone delivers great performance throughout. Especially playing opposite Ross Waitons‘ Macduff, strong in their confidence to give some good depth to the proceedings.

Lady Macbeth, (Kirsty Besterman) was a struggle to find her intentions. Enticing towards murderous actions, but equally trying to convey she has a victim-like conscience. Encouraging drastic choices for her husband to commit, for which she had to complete. Only to illicit sympathy from then on. Giving her an awkward imbalance rather than an arc. Not a fault of Kirsty, who had good composure and drew in sympathy in her performance, when logic was not present.
Patrick Robinsons Banquo performance delivered with precision and commitment befitting Shakespeare proud. Would personally like to hear more of his work in a more traditional William penned work. Tom Manninons‘ Duncan strong and regal in a red suit. Despite only a couple of scenes, Lisa Zahra brought a compelling Lady Macduff to life.

The emotional moment at the death of a lead in the first act drew the 2 girls to my right to tears. Thumbs up!

An exciting up and close personal sword fighting finale with fight direction from Kev McCurdy. Brings the show to its penultimate moment, before a brutal ending for the title character on show for all to see. As I close up for the conclusion, I’ve re-read what I have written, what’s clear that this is a mixed bag, yin and yang. It’s a daring unique take on the cursed classic, doesn’t quite get everything right. I dare say, as much as I love Shakespearean dialect, there is a potential that this would benefit from a revision in a modern vernacular to portray the story. There are performances especially from the strong lead veterans that help this production stand out.

National Theatres Macbeth is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal. Tuesday 22 to Saturday 26th January 2019.

Tickets available from the Box office and available to book online

Visit the TRCH Macbeth promotional page for information.