The Globe production of Macbeth is available:
- As a DVD from Amazon UK for £16.74 or from Amazon USA for $17.29
- From The Globe Player for rental (streaming) for £5.99 ($9) or for purchase (download as an MP4) for £9.99 ($15)
- We are not aware of any way of streaming this production yet
Prices are indicative – check the actual price at the Vendors’ links above.
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Our Bottom Line:
A delightful production, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Based on The Tempest, and Twelfth Night, (which I’ve seen but not reviewed), and now Macbeth, if you get the opportunity to see a Globe on Screen production, then go. Even better, if you’re in London, go to a Shakespeare production at The Globe (but do get a seat in the galleries).
Our Review (****):
I went last night to see The Globe’s production of Macbeth on screen at a local Edinburgh cinema with some trepidation. It couldn’t be as good as their production of The Tempest a couple of weeks ago (see review), could it???
(See what you think by checking out this video clip of Banquo and Macbeth meeting the witches at https://wp.me/P3PGVg-KN)
The magic of the Globe asserted itself again! There is something about this re-build of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan / Jacobean theatre, and perhaps its funding, which makes the productions I have seen there more entertaining, more moving, than most productions of even the RSC or the National Theatre. There’s only one thing that can beat it, in my view, and that’s a promenade performance in good weather where one can have more variety of set, which can help with some scenes, and even more engagement between players and audience.
So what made last night’s production of Macbeth, by first-time Globe director, Eve Best, so entertaining, so moving???
Macbeth-and-audience.jpg” data-rel=”prettyPhoto[this_page]” title=””>It was quite a complex recipe. As always, the basic ingredient is The Globe. The theatre wraps itself around the audience and the players, helping them to engage with each other with an intensity that is infrequent in other theatres. Of course this is helped by the fact that they can see each other! We’re in daylight!!! I sometimes wonder if the best advice one could give to the RSC and the National Theatre is “Keep the bleeding lights on!”
Macbeth-set.jpg” data-rel=”prettyPhoto[this_page]” title=””>The simple unchanging set – a castle built of vertical, wooden, distressed, joists, topped by white drapes above the music gallery with the usual three entrances from the tiring house, was effective for most scenes (the witches scenes might have been better played in a gnarled forest) and when complemented with the elaborate Renaissance costumes of the cast provides a feast for the eye.
The music is usually a feature of Globe productions but last night it excelled. This is the Scottish play, so of course bagpipes were almost inevitable. However, ever since ‘Braveheart’ the kilt and the bagpipes have gone grunge. There’s a group (Clanadonia) who usually haunt the streets of Edinburgh during the Festival, with 1 piper, and around 20 drummers, who play heavy rock drum rhythms to the sound of rocked-up traditional pipe tunes. Macbeth took a leaf out of their books at the start of the play with lots of drummers on stage, and a piper in the music gallery – a great way to start the play – and the music throughout added enormously to the emotional tone – and the Scottishness of the production, including laments at the start of the 2nd half, and at the end of the play.
It’s fairly traditional at the end of a Globe play, to end with a dance. This can be a little awkward at the end of a tragedy, and the production solved this problem elegantly with a lament, played by one of the witches on a viola (?), with the cast onstage doing an ‘arm dance’. After a good three minutes of this, we moved back to the grunge pipes and drums and a cross between a Scottish sword-dance and an eightsome reel as the cast took their bows, nicely changing the audience’s feelings to something appropriate for leaving the theatre.
But of course, at the centre of any production, is the cast and the play. How did they do? First, they reflected multi-cultural Britain with a range of ethnic backgrounds. The accents were also multi-cultural, with Received Pronunciation (posh English for non-UK readers) used for Duncan; Malcolm; Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Scots was sometimes heard, notably by Banquo and MacDuff. Banquo was played with a sardonic Glasgow humour by Billy Boyd, which added Scottishness and depth to the character. I swear I heard a Scottish lilt coming from the witches in one or two places as well. Adding MacDuff’s (Stuart Bowman) Scots accent, and the Scots music, this Scotsman had enough Scottishness in the recipe for ‘the Scottish play’ to satisfy him.
Joseph Millson (Macbeth) gave a powerful performance as the (anti-)hero. Energetic, with a lot of physical movement, he made a convincing portrait of a man, dominated by his wife, and other women (the witches), who gives in to a terrible temptation and makes an horrendous mistake, Macbeth-and-witches.jpg” data-rel=”prettyPhoto[this_page]” title=””>suffering the consequences as he moves towards death. He made sense of all of Macbeth’s speeches – not an easy task – and his performance was enriched by little touches: his playing with the dagger in his hand; his interactions with The Messenger (well-played by Colin Ryan); and “Is this a dagger” played directly to the camera in this broadcast.
His and Lady Macbeth’s scenes in Act I and II, as she first persuades him to the murder; then the murder itself; the cover-up; and the discovery of the murder was masterful. Lady Macbeth (Samantha Spiro) dominates convincingly, and yet her brittleness which will lead to madness is still obvious. Only missing perhaps was some of her psychological astuteness “Yet do I fear thy nature…”.
Of course these scenes are perhaps the highlight of the play, and the major difficulty is how to prevent it turning into anti-climax after the banquet with Banquo’s ghost. The first half ended after this banquet, with both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth making powerful exits.
Malcolm is played by Philip Cumbus with more humour than usual, which is rather a relief, and helps the ‘English’ scene (AIV,SIII) from dragging, and allows MacDuff’s pain at the murder of his family to move the audience. This, with the brutal murder of MacDuff’s son (again played well by Colin Ryan) and his wife, is key to moving the audience away from sympathy with Macbeth, to the need for revenge.
One other minor part needs to be mentioned. Harry Hepple made a great hand out of Lenox: he milked the humour of his embarrassed meeting with Macbeth after the murder; and his dramatic irony in AIII, SVI was a delight.
So a delightful production, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Based on The Tempest, and Twelfth Night, (which I’ve seen but not reviewed), and now Macbeth, if you get the opportunity to see a Globe on Screen production, then go. Even better, if you’re in London, go to a Shakespeare production at The Globe (but do get a seat in the galleries).
However the production wasn’t faultless. Three problems need to be mentioned:
The production suffered from ‘the shouting school of acting’ – the stronger the emotion, the more one should shout. Macduff, Lady Macbeth, and Macbeth all suffered from this, particularly Macbeth. By the end of the performance his voice was hoarse – and nearly going. According to the voice coach I have used on my productions, this is positively dangerous for the actors’ voices. There are equally effective ways of expressing strong emotions which protect the actors’ voices.
To this rather literalist audience member, the words have to tie up with the action. When Macbeth says he’s carrying a sword, he shouldn’t be carrying a battle axe. When he says he’s carrying a shield, I like to see a shield. On a slightly less literalist point, when the bell tolls that summons Duncan to heaven or to hell, it needs to be a church bell, and not an electronic ping. I know the tolling church bell is a cliché, but sometimes getting rid of all the clichés is a mistake.
And finally, if you can only get an audience of 17 to a production of Macbeth in Edinburgh, (14 at The Tempest) there’s something seriously wrong with the marketing of these Globe on Screen productions at Vue. These shows deserve to survive, and go international, and they won’t with these sort of audience numbers.
If this review has stimulated an interest in Globe on Screen productions, or other ‘Global Theatre’ events, then check out our Global Theatre events diary.