Review: Macbeth at Chichester Theatre


While the production had its ups and downs, Macbeth's production still had some charming moments and a stunning cast.

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Paul Miller’s production of Macbeth featuring John Simm is running at Chichester Festival Theatre, delivering an understated yet powerful dramatic piece.

John Simm steals the show as the titular Macbeth, concealed in his power yet emotionally volatile while Dervla Kirwan’s Lady Macbeth manages to enchant between dancing around Macbeth and being a (not so trustworthy) voice of reason.

The play skimped on Lady Macbeth’s death, which was a disappointing choice in itself – but ultimately undermines the integrity of the character. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth stood out in the production, and Lady Macbeth deserves a spectacle of brutal, pivotal death along with the other scenes she shined in.

The casting of the witches, while excellent, left something to be desired. Macbeth is its most depraved when the focal characters reflect that. Witches that are haggard and mystifying in an ominous way; since witches are cross-culturally significant across time, it feels as though they should represent that. Instead, they run around the stage looking akin to being on their last day at Glastonbury festival.

There were given scenes that felt sluggish in their ability to keep your attention: not a fault of the actors but the general direction of the whole production. It lacked buoyancy and vivaciousness within its momentum. Thus, rather than nosediving into Macbeth’s descent into madness, we plod along.

A large part that played into the atmospheric drought was the set. To create pathetic fallacy, Tim Beird provides a video of grey clouds and twisting trees. Yet, sometimes the video is overzealous in its function. During Lady Macbeth’s first monologue the final words of every line were presented on the screen, in a bit of a cheesy manner that took the light from Kirwan’s stunning projection.

Yet, some parts had its charm: the almost smoke-screen set-up felt as though you were watching intimate moments through a window. The glass floor also acted as a fun vessel for the witches to climb under, creeping and crawling. Yet, it was met with impracticality as the performance was canceled following press night as the floor cracked before the first interval on its second performance.

It is worth going to see the production even if just for Simm and Kirwan, who pump realism and excitement back into the less admirable production.

The production of Macbeth is running until October 26th at Chichester Festival Theatre.


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