THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

REVIEWS

The Weird Sisters in <em>Macbeth</em>, screened in the National Theatre Live series

Review: Macbeth | National Theatre Live | Angelika Film Center & Cafe


Toil and Trouble

In the National Theatre Live's screening of Macbeth, starring Kenneth Branagh, the muck overtakes the production.



published Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Photo: Johan Persson
Macbeth, screened in the National Theatre Live series

Dallas — Sir Kenneth goes mucking about, and offers nothing new or exciting for his pains. The National Theatre Live screenings present William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, co-directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford for the Manchester International Festival, produced in a deconsecrated Victorian church.

In his cozy pre-show chat with NT Live’s host, Ashford reveals that not only is this production performed in a church, they held auditions for it in one and rehearsed in another, a curious fetish. The performance takes place in the church’s apse and nave. The audience sits in dark, stadium-style boxes on either side of the nave. The apse looms bright with a wealth of luminescent candles arrayed in a semi-circle, bathed in warm hues, buttery yellow, orange and red. Ankle deep, dark peaty muck that exudes a stench covers the entire nave floor, where most action takes place, under cooler light and often in shadow. It’s a “concept production.”

With a “concept production,” directors risk distancing from the text’s meaning, stretching it past logic in order to follow what the concept dictates. Perhaps this production makes more sense if seen in person? It feels strained and problematic as viewed on film, comes across as self-consciously campy/spooky instead of allowing the potent, unworldly drama in text and character to drive the mayhem with tragic consequences.

Photo: Johan Persson
Kenneth Branagh in Macbeth, screened in the National Theatre Live series

The floor muck presents an issue of major consequence. A theatrical rule of thumb dictates that actors should never bring a prop onstage if they don’t use it; the audience will forget the play and wonder why the prop exists. As nasty and squelchy as the nave’s muck must be underfoot in this Macbeth, no actor in the ensemble notices it, recoils from its feel or stink, or uses it to make any point, in the entire performance. Even when they run on stage barefoot and ankle-length nightshirt-clad to learn about the fuss caused by King Duncan’s murder, nobody steps in the muck with distaste, nobody hikes up a hem, nobody wrinkles their nose or tries to wipe it off. So why have it?

I found myself distracted, watching to see if anybody would react to the nasty brew. I suppose it’s there to indicate the wet, filthy, smelly environment of the play’s Scottish setting. As a sustained metaphor for the outdoors on Scotland’s moors in every scene, it would find better use in a play about Scottish mud wrestling.

There are fine acting performances in this production, most from secondary characters. Ray Fearon as Macduff, Jimmy Yuill as Banquo and Alexander Vlahos as Malcolm all bring welcome intensity and veracity to the odd church staging. I don’t know quite what to make of Branagh as the title character. I have enjoyed much of his previous screen work. Reliable reviews of the live production certainly praise him, for the most part. Perhaps he was off at the performance that was filmed? I found his performance under par. He seems tired and slow, not engaged with the other actors, little eye contact. 

His interest in Lady Macbeth seems perfunctory at best; and he feels barely able to keep up in the combat scenes, hardly leading the fray. Alex Kingston is ill-cast as Lady Macbeth. Most ensemble performances lean towards naturalism, so Kingston’s over-the-top melodrama characterization belong elsewhere. It’s as if she is preparing herself for the role of Madame Thénardier, a villain in Les Misérables. Worst of all are the three witches. Kate Bassett of The Independent described them thus in her July 2013 stage review: “a ghoul-girl trinity, a travesty of saints in arched niches—faces blackened, eyeballs rolling, jittering like deranged monkeys.” I could not agree more.

Sir Kenneth: please stop mucking around and give us the honest, simple performances Hamlet urged his Players to perform.

Remaining local showtimes and locations are:

  • 7pm Tuesday, Oct. 29 at Angelika Film Center Plano
  • 2 & 7pm Wednesday, Nov. 6 at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
 Thanks For Reading




Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Toil and Trouble
In the National Theatre Live's screening of Macbeth, starring Kenneth Branagh, the muck overtakes the production.
by Alexandra Bonifield

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie Fort Worth Symphony Home for the Holidays John Williams Christmas Noel CCBT The Nutcracker Great Distance Home Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Black Nativity Stage West Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Cara Mia Riders in the Sky KD Studios UNT College of Music UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Melinda Massie
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
audiocasts
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web



Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:


Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:


TheaterJones Section:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  



Your Name:
Your Email Adress:


please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :
Submit