To end the season of Shakespeare’s tragedies, the RSC chose Macbeth with the formidable Greg Hicks as the fated Thane who becomes King through a selfish and personal desire for power and kingship born out of witchcraft and oracular riddles. Macbeth’s bloody destruction on all who would stand in his way is supported and devised by his equally evil wife Lady Macbeth. These classic figures combine and contrive to hear what they want to hear from the witches fore-telling, and it is in this arrogance of a protected life do they embark on the blood-bath that ensues. The witches, it could be argued, watch in delight as the game unfolds and the human condition is exposed.
In the shadowy castle, that serves all locations, the design by Robert Innes Hopkins is provocative and moody. Almost like the recesses of the mind you can never quite see what is in the farthest corner or behind a streaking shadow. Lit evocatively by Peter Mumford the focus was never lost and created a disturbing edge between reality and the supernatural. Couple all this with a heart-beating sound-scape by Gary Yershon and you get the feeling that you are probing someone’s mind rather than looking at a stage play.
The overall feeling of this production is one that is rooted in the mind of Macbeth (Greg Hicks) and it is through his eyes do we see the play and watch the events unfold. This, in the main, serves the play well as it is Macbeth’s inner conflict, passion and desire that allow the events to be put in motion and continue. However, for Lady Macbeth (Sian Thomas) is does not allow her to take hold of her husband with a controlling hand. In the banquet scene when Banquo (Louis Hilyer) appears, there is nothing to reign in as nothing is being pushed out by Macbeth. This psychological internalising is impressive and skilled; but, I believe, it was overly applied and threw up a wall to the other actors; and in so doing made it more of a master class acting lesson on stunning delivery and an outstanding observation of inner turmoil. You may think this is a good thing – well, indeed it is, but it must be tempered with more pattering so it does not become the main focus of the play. There are many interesting characters in Macbeth and we need to see them, feel them, hear them and watch how each individual makes up the overall story in how they react to and against each other.
I am slightly at a loss as to what I feel about Dominic Cooke’s shaping of this production. There is no doubt that Greg Hicks is a first class actor with an enviable ability to own the stage. However, within the ensemble remit set out by Michael Boyd, I wonder were the other actors sit within this towering play about many lives and the reshaping of history? I did enjoy this production, but it was for selfish and respectful reasons. Maybe that is enough when you go to the theatre, but there is also something to be gained by colouring a production with an entire cast and not one Class A actor.
Gene David Kirk