Misconceived: this is the word that perhaps best summarizes my views on the Globe production of Macbeth.
Not everything is lost but the even before the show starts I found my Globe experience already thoroughly spoiled. As I understand it, the Globe should not only be as close as possible to the original Elizabethan playhouse in architectural terms as scholarship allows it to be, but also provide modern audiences with the closest experience of a theatre-goer at the time. This was immediately shattered by the stage design that covered the lovely columns, and basically the whole stage, with modern-looking, black, metal structures which – no matter how much I think about it – still seem absolutely meaningless to me. I have no idea what they are supposed to represent and I am pretty sure I am not alone here.
Although I quite liked the whole visual approach to the witches and found them quite scary in attire, the moment they produced the pieces of the dummy, the whole dark and frightening atmosphere ‘vanished into thin air’ itself. And don’t even get me going on the baby/cocoon/pantomime ventriloquist puppeteered dummy-like prop …
The mishmash of historical periods in the costumes is also well-conceived as it is the use of anachronistic props. There was even a aloud ‘oh!’ of surprise and shock from the audience when Lady Macbeth produced a lighter to burn her husband’s letter… Some my call the Globe ‘folk theatre’, but replicating the Elizabethan theatrical experience is exactly what it is supposed to do. We have the RSC and the National to provide us with more unconventional adaptations of Shakespeare; the Globe should do what it says on the tin. If this is the kind of orientation we are going to have under the new artistic director, Emma Rice, I am afraid audiences will start thinking twice before getting their tickets.
Artistic innovation in Shakespeare does not need to come from the production team; it can simply come from fresh takes on the characters, which in my opinion, Iqbal Khan mostly failed to extract from his actors in his production of Macbeth. Ray Fearon, in the title role, has his good moments. The first scene and the famous one with the imaginary dagger were quite impressive but as the action progresses and Macbeth’s sanity abandons him, his performance becomes increasingly misjudged, loud, and full of an artificial intensity. It almost seems he has mistaken Macbeth for Tamburlaine and Shakespeare for Marlowe. Tara Fitzgerald is the only real acting highlight in this generally misguided production. Her Lady Macbeth is fierce, unpredictable and passionate and her sleep-walking scene was well-delivered. Yet, I think she has given us a better Selyse Baratheon on the TV screen than a Lady Macbeth on the stage.
Jocelyn Pook’s music was hauntingly beautiful and helped to somehow save the day. When at the end of a performance, as it happened when I attended, the loudest cheers from the audience go for the musicians, we can have a measure of the production.