Let’s be honest: a version of Macbeth with interpretive dance was never really going to be my cup of tea. And, surprise, surprise, it wasn’t. But, on the plus side, at least it was only two hours. And as Macbeth himself says:
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly.
Certain aspects of the modern staging do show thought and promise. The lighting in this production is excellent and works well with the set, playing around with perspective and scale. The choice to subvert the traditional double casting of Duncan/Porter is intriguing, as is the decision to not present Duncan as one who ‘hath borne his faculties so meek’ but rather merciless as we see him electrocute the previous Thane of Cawdor. This continues in a similar vein to The Young Vic’s Measure for Measure, which also showed a figure of authority in a more morally, ambiguous light. The casting as well is to be commended on the whole, with John Heffernan bringing a less paranoid and more pragmatic take.
However, while other aspects of the staging ‘art not without ambition’, they lacked the finesse that should attend it. As in the original text, the Three Witches speak in unison at points and in this production they also dance in unison. Or at least they should. Neither the dancing nor the speeches were in sync with one another perfectly. Last year’s production of The Crucible at The Old Vic had supposedly possessed girls who all spoke in perfect unison, making for a terrifying spectacle. The Young Vic’s attempt to emulate their elder sibling is flawed and sloppy. Similarly sloppy are certain actors’ delivery of the lines and verse. Cassie Layton (Lady Macduff), Prasanna Puwanarajah (Banquo) and Heffernan make it look easy, accomplished, considered and confident in their delivery. The same can’t be said for some others who garble and incoherently race through dialogue, as if they (like us) can’t wait for it to end.
And while the dances are an ‘interesting’ addition, this should not be at the expense of the original text. The infamous Porter scene is cut in this production, in favour of a five minute dance. And while it is impressive, it’s not Shakespeare-impressive. And one personal gripe: don’t make unnecessary additions to the text. Macbeth is not present at the murder of Macduff’s wife. Nor is Lady Macbeth present in the final scene, neither in corporeal form or spiritual. If it’s not in the original and doesn’t bring a new, relevant take to the play, don’t include it.
Finally, a note on audience behaviour: not only were a fair few phone screens lit at points, but fifteen people left before the end. At least one of those seemed medical related, but to the others: rude.
You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting,
With most admired disorder.
And, honestly, I do think this did detract from my enjoyment of the show somewhat.
Verdict: a confused production, with neither plot, dance or lines in sync at points. A ‘most bloody piece of work’ indeed: bloody bad.
Macbeth is playing at The Young Vic until 23rd January 2016. To book tickets or to find out more information, visit The Young Vic website.