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Macbeth Review – Barbican Centre

Eccelston and Cusack give outstanding performances in a fast moving production of Macbeth.

With any staging of a Shakespeare play, you hope it offers something unique, but still true to the original.

Burned by Emma Rice’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe last summer (paid £100 for two tickets and left at intermission it was that bad), I was relieved to find Polly Findlay’s version modernised without a Mickey Mouse in sight (yep, Romeo and Juliet had a Disney character in it).

Christopher Eccleston swaggers as Macbeth like Liam Gallagher, an alpha male in the presence of other males. But crippled with doubt as he grapples with his actions with Lady Macbeth.

Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth gave a passionate performance every time she touched the stage. Not only possessed in her final scenes, but seemingly channeling the pains of Lady Macbeth as she tries to console and keep her husband’s diminishing state of mind contained.

The play is at its strongest when Cusack and Eccleston are together, jostling and switching dominant roles at will in their relationship.

Another stand out performance was Luke Newberry as Malcolm, giving a heartfelt and earnest delivery throughout.

And the three witches/schoolgirls were unexpectedly creepy (a very clever choice of casting), almost horror movie-esque. To play in front of a huge crowd at the Barbican takes a lot of confidence which they should be applauded for.

The comedic elements were hit and miss. Eccelston was sarcastic which suited his bravado. But the main laughs came from Michael Hodgson as the Porter.

While most of actions and lines landed with the audience, there were a couple of occasions when comedy was not needed. For example, in the final scene when Malcolm is giving uproaring speech, the Porter can be seen hoovering abound Macbeth’s dead body.

At 2 hours 33 mins, it doesn’t feel long at all (apart from the heat in the theatre). Scene changes are quick, all dialogue is necessary and urgent, the pace is just right.

I bought my ticket for £12 on TodayTix and it’s definitely value for money.

Rating – 4/5
15th October – 18th January
Barbican Centre


Looking for something more light hearted and comedic? Read my review of A Very Very Very Dark Place at The Bridge Theatre, starting Him Broadbent in Marin McDonagh’s latest dark comedy work.

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