The Scottish Play

A bit of a delayed write-up, but I wanted to comment on a trip to the theatre a couple of weeks back.

We went to see the new production of Macbeth that is currently on at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. The production stars Patrick Stewart (Ola’s primary criteria for wanting to see it!). It was previously on at the Chichester Festival Theatre before moving to the capital.

OK, it’s Shakespeare, and it’s a pretty grim play. It may or may not be your cup of tea on those grounds alone. Personally, I like it. Macbeth was the first piece of Shakespeare I was made to read at school… at the age of 13… I remember whipping through it in an afternoon off, much to my teacher’s surprise (at this point I can sense some readers rolling their eyes and thinking “what a swot”, but that’s digital authenticity for you).

The production itself is absolutely superb; in fact, possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen on stage. Although the play remains clearly Scottish, the director has chosen to relocate it into a kind of Soviet / Stalinist reality – the costumes and set are clearly influenced by militaristic 1940s styles, the warfare modern. There are some marvellous set pieces in this production – particularly the scene where Macbeth demands answers from the witches and their spirits, and the banquet scene where the ghost of Banquo returns, brilliantly played as a cliffhanger over the interval. The programme notes that Macbeth is very much a play of our time in a “surveillance society”, and the sense of paranoia is palpable. Stewart puts in an intense performance, and the rest of the cast is superb, particularly Kate Fleetwood as a scheming and, latterly, disturbed Lady Macbeth.

If theatre is your thing, then I highly recommend this production. It runs until December 1st and should move to the US next year.

5 responses to “The Scottish Play

  1. Thanks for this Andy. I saw ads for it on London Underground this week. Sounds like I should try catch it next week when I’m back in town again.


  2. I find watching Shakespeare more interesting than reading it. I have to admit though, Patrick Stewart would probably be a motivating factor for me to want to see this too 🙂

    I’ve always wanted to go to the Stratford Festival in Canada, even though I’ve never been a huge Shakespeare fan…I just thought it would be fun.


  3. I thought you’re not allowed to say Macbeth? 🙂


  4. We saw the same perfomers, led by Patrick Stewart, in the Twelfth Night at the Chichester Festival Theatre a month or so back, and it was also excellent. The production was set sometime around the 1920s, with an excellent and thought provoking stage set. Stewart played Malvolio (and obviously thoroughly enjoying the character). It would have been great to see Macbeth while it was there too, especially with the setting and context you describe… maybe next time 🙂


  5. hello! So that’s the one play I want to see when I’m back in a few weeks time. I’ve already emailed my friend with information. And i’m with Ola in terms of motivation!


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