Review: Macbeth… I mean…. The Scottish Play

My apologies for this rather belated review of National Theater Live’s (NTL) stream of Macbeth at The Michigan which occurred on Sunday the 27th of October.

This is the third performance Michigan Theater has streamed from NTL in London. This was my least favorite. There were some elements I appreciated but over all it was a disappointing performance. Although this production starred Kenneth Branagh as the Scottish king and Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth, and was directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh, staged in an abandoned church and ran with out an intermission, there were many problems.

Personally I am not a fan of Kenneth Branagh, he always comes across as a highly arrogant and self important person, no matter the role he play. Granted many of the roles he has played, Gildaroy Lockhart (Harry Potter) and Hamlet, are considerably narcissistic characters. However, I find him to be an unappealing actor.

Alex Kingston did a lovely job as Lady Macbeth. Although she seemed to have a little problem with over-acting at times.

The staging of this production in an abandoned church was the best choice made by the artistic director. The aisle was the stage, covered in earth which became muddy from the rain which fell from the ceiling during scene 1 act 1, effectively creating the feeling that we were in the Scottish highlands.

The actors abandoned Shakespeare’s essential iambic pentameter, which was an odd choice. Sometimes the rhythmic speech indicative of this style can detract from the story, I didn’t find it to be a bothersome artistic choice in this case. However, the ernest delivery of EVERY SINGLE LINE was rather annoying. There wasn’t much difference in speech where something banal was happening, and those where someone was murdered or murdering. Rather tiresome.

There were a good number of sword fights in this play. They were stiff and over-rehearsed. I can appreciate the difficulty of this kind of physical acting and staging, but at this level of professional theater, I expected better.

Last, but certainly not least, the filming… oh dear god the filming. For some reason the videographer decided to get creative with the arial shots. Considering the live audience would never have had an opportunity to see the production from that particular angle, this was an unfortunate choice.

By the end, we all had to pee. You would have too if you’d sat through close to 3 hours of Shakespeare right after dinner. Coming into this production I didn’t expect great things, due to my dislike of Kenneth Branagh. I left having my minimal expectations met, which is shocking because this production was well received and reviewed when it was on stage earlier this year.

So it goes.