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REVIEW: Macbeth

PUBLISHED: 09:00 02 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:49 05 October 2010

MACBETH has all the elements for a powerful and sinister tragedy – ghosts, hauntings, murder, madness. The anti-hero Macbeth is a successful lord when he hears predictions from supernatural spirits that he will one day be king of Scotland, but his frien

MACBETH has all the elements for a powerful and sinister tragedy - ghosts, hauntings, murder, madness.

The anti-hero Macbeth is a successful lord when he hears predictions from supernatural spirits that he will one day be king of Scotland, but his friend Banquo will father kings.

Most audiences are familiar with the witches and the horror of Banquo's ghost appearing to haunt Macbeth but less so with the dark drama of the play.

There are no gimmicky witches with pointed hats gathered round a cauldron in this production of Macbeth as they predict the Scottish soldier's future and suggest that he will become king one day.

Instead member's of the chorus, including Anastasia Hille who plays Lady Macbeth speak the prophecies of the supernatural women.

This is a pared down show, with no intricate sets or costumes, with the cast dressed in sombre black, military uniforms for the men and simple dresses and skirts for the women and the story played out in a dark, claustrophobic space.

There is however plenty of menace and space for the nightmarish tale to develop from the ambition of Macbeth and his wife to usurp the crown and move all obstacles from their path to their psychological disintegration as they reality of their actions strike home.

And without the distractions of set or costumes the power of the story and the text shines through.

The exception is the garish and comic porter, played by Kelly Hotten, who is also Lady Macduff.

Cheek by Jowl earned its reputation for its fresh approach to the classics.

Will Keen is convincing as the murderous Macbeth, putting on an act as the loyal and welcoming host to his guest King Duncan who he plans to kill before the night is out setting into train a tragic series of murders.

But we also see Macbeth as a popular soldier, liked by his comrades and friend Banquo, (an excellent Ryan Kiggell) before ambition gets the better of him and he destroys all about him.

Anastasia Hille gives a mesmerising performance as Lady Macbeth, at turns seducing her husband to action or forcing him to forget the enormity and torment of what he has done, before she descends into madness as she herself is unable to handle the horror.

For those who are new to Macbeth this is an excellent production and there is plenty to impress audiences who are familiar with the play.

Macbeth, Cheek by Jowl, Silk Street Theatre, Barbican until April 10

Box office 020 7 638 8891

Julia Gregory

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