With big names, big staging and a big, brutal, bloody vision, this new Macbeth from the National Theatre is very dark.
A dark stage conjures dim outskirts of sink estates in some nearby broken future Scotland: a bin-bag strewn world of battered streets unlit by broken streetlamps shrouded in garbage, where middle-aged gangs down jerrycan homebrew and tangle in wrecked motels, playing war with stolen machetes and gaffer-taped armour. An abbreviated bridge leads nowhere; the unremitting darkness shrouds scampering witches in filthy longjohns and improvised waterproofs.
Tom Mannion as
The stage swings like a box of horrors, each turn revealing a new tableau of horror, filth and gore. There are impressive subtleties in the minor roles; Rachel Sanders is extraordinary as Ross, bringing warmth and nobility to a world lacking in both, while Deka Walmsley threads the role of porter into a henchman foil for Michael Nardone’s roaring, flailing, terrifying, monstrous Macbeth.
Like a festival that had gone on twenty years too long, the cast circulate and swap, witches become victims, actors disappear into shapeless street-drinker layers, emerge into house-party sequins. Joseph Brown’s Malcolm reappears in aspirational jacket, sweeping ambition back into the kaleidoscope of horrors in an invasion which seems unlikely to succeed.
Macbeth is of course an unlucky play, but this production has hit on a rich seam of bloodthirsty gloom that will delight, appal and appeal.