Blood’s Wet and Ears

When you are only a few feet away from the action, you would rather prefer that the newly severed head that Macduff is holding up by the ears wasn’t quite so realistic. Apparently a recent performance was halted as a woman in the front row fainted. Probably had nothing to do with the amount of blood that a severed jugular can spray around the place. The helpful tip from the usher prior to curtain up that the blood wouldn’t stain and would easily wash out filled the front couple of rows with confidence.

Macbeth must be the perfect play. A play that allows the cast to stretch their talent with no fear of failing.

This latest performance at the Trafalgar Studio must be one of a couple of dozen that I have seen and I can’t remember any which failed to grip. Of course some have been better than others – Patrick Stewart’s brutal, bloody dictator setting the highest bar – but each and every performance has delivered.

And this one delivered in right into your lap. Literally. 70 stage seats in the newly configured studio space were very close to the action. Possibly a bit too close to the woman in front of me as Macbeth sprayed blood over Banquo’s ghost and most of the front row in the banquet scene. (And what would have passed for a sumptuous banquet from a normal view was exposed as baked beans from our close-up seats.)

This was a high tempo, high action performance from James McAvoy as he bathed in the blood of a king, friends, and finally his own. But for all that, this was one of the more fatalistic interpretations. I suppose if you are going to believe the witches’ prophecies that lead you to the throne, then it it inevitable that you just shrug your shoulders when Burnham Wood upsticks and appears outside your castle door.

Before that, and for all his bluster Macbeth caves in a tad too easily when her Ladyship sharpens his knife and points him at the King’s bedroom door. Claire Foy played Lady Macbeth less as a psychopathic murdress (OK she went a bit nuts at the end) and more as an ordinary working class girl who wants to get on in life. “Things to do today. Get Macbeth to look around for a better job. Throw a couple of big house parties. And, oh yes, stab the king.”

Don’t you just hate it when ordinary people do bad things.

The first appearance of the androgynous witches in gas masks gave the feel that this tale was set in some future where the question of who rules Scotland is still to be decided. I wonder what the witches would make of Salmond.