Review: Macbeth is an uncanny and disturbing triumph on Leamington stage

​Nick Le Mesurier reviews Macbeth, directed by David Fletcher, Loft Theatre, Leamington
'Just what have we stumbled across?': Mark Crossley and Julie Godfrey as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth'Just what have we stumbled across?': Mark Crossley and Julie Godfrey as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
'Just what have we stumbled across?': Mark Crossley and Julie Godfrey as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

One does not simply watch Macbeth and hail its eponymous hero. Macbeth has gone down in history as the embodiment of evil, of desire for power for power’s sake. Yet on examination Macbeth also is weak, driven as he is by the proclamations of others, be they the three witches or his wife. Macbeth is a tool, not a king but a servant. So who, and what, is Macbeth?

Such is the paradoxical complexity of the figure that it takes an actor, and a production, of great stature to realise the play’s delicate potential. In the Loft’s current production, we seem to be there, and in its avoidance of the obvious it might have pulled off a triumph.

The stage is dimly lit throughout, embodying the dark themes at work. The set consists of a number of raised platforms and stiff, somewhat abstract vertical pillars towards the rear constructed in what looks like rough timber, reminiscent of… what? We are not in a specific time or place, echoed by the large empty space downstage in which the actors perform. In some ways one might say this serves to foreground the text, which is of course magnificent. But I had wished the actors had used the stage better, for they remain largely still in their deliveries, so they do not so much occupy it as appear to be placed within it.

But perhaps that is the point. The magnificent soliloquies, and there are many, are delivered mainly straight into an empty space wherein the audience sits. It is as if we are witnessing something going on that isn’t really our business. The overall effect, which I think is deliberate, is disturbing. Just what have we stumbled across? It’s tangible but at the same time not quite within our grasp. Uncanny, rather than frightening. If this is the intention of the production, then it has succeeded magnificently.

Macbeth has been played so often that the desire to be original in production is almost bound to fall short. For me, in spite of, or perhaps because of its flaws, this production has a quiet power of its own which niggles beneath the skin and raises more questions than answers. As indeed it should.

Macbeth runs until November 4, Visit lofttheatrecompany.com or call 01926 830680 to book.

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