Scotland's Theatre Gateway, Edinburgh
August, 2004

Graham McLaren's company theatre babel [sic] has amassed a growing reputation in the last few years. Even so, it's surely a little risky to accept and wear with pride one reviewer's double-edged compliment that it is "the great style house of the Scottish stage". We expect style to contrast with substance, and sure enough, thoughtful though the company's tenth-anniversary production of Macbeth is, it never fully comes into an intellectual focus to match its visual sharpness.

A thicket of swords is suspended on wires over the stage: sometimes they are lowered to become a treacherous forest, sometimes they simply loom threateningly, like the dark fate awaiting almost all concerned. An unnamed baleful presence (Malcolm Shields) watches virtually every scene from a distance of only a few feet, and takes the roles of various henchmen and murderers, as if personifying the malign agency that tempts and then betrays the bloody Thane.

The stage is permanently wreathed in mist, confirming Lady Macbeth's observation that hell is murky. Rebecca Rodgers' Lady M is little clearer herself: she plays the role in the requisite high key, but cannot make the tune her own. It's odd to be able to call Lady Macbeth bland. As her husband, John Kazek is impassioned, but too artificial. He has an odd habit of drawing out the final consonant of a line into a portentous rattle or hiss, which is especially intrusive on sibilants. At an hour and three-quarters without interval, McLaren's production plays efficiently, but it misses the Senecan tragic horror it aims for.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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