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Macbeth, Young Vic Theatre

January 27, 2016

(Seen at the afternoon performance on 16th January 2016).

For some inexplicable reason, the Young Vic Theatre have managed to schedule three completely separate versions of “the Scottish Play” into the same auditorium, at the same time. The solution seems to be to allow whoever gets onto the stage first to perform a bit, then trick them into standing on a clever sliding platform or use a concealed door to whisk them off to a secure room while one of the other productions uses the stage until another team can escape back on.

First up, a “yoof theatre” lot have set the play in a subway tunnel, with a violent mugging to open proceedings. Sadly, their lighting lets them down with its flickering, and so team two get to take over. Three girls, fresh from Dance Acadamy via minor private ladies’ college for the ‘nice but intellectually not Oxbridge set’ get to come on and move weirdly while reciting lines they must have learned for parlour games. Last, thankfully, a professional crew from the RSC and National Theatre get to make occasional appearances and deliver the key speeches with all the aptitude you would expect of those illustrious institutions.

And yes, I’m only being about half sarcastic. Carrie Cracknell is one of my favourite directors. Always innovative, with an eye for the unusual. Sadly, here, she totally loses her touch – and indeed I’d venture to suggest, much contact with the text.

The jagged cuts between styles prevent the action from flowing. The doubling-up of characters confuses, and having witches who may or may not be pregnant and have children is simply head-scratching odd.

Only John Heffernan as the title character and Anna Maxwell Martin as his wife come out of this with any credit, both delivering key speeches in a way to thrill any child repelled (as I was) by having to deal with a dead page (not) interpreted by a brain-dead English teacher.

For the rest, I award myself points for punching myself in the mouth to keep myself silent when the witches donned ghost outfits and engaged in a skipping competition. Top marks were achieved when I actually stayed to the end.

To say much more could humiliate the blameless working on this peculiar abomination, clearly the result of – if not a “heat oppresse’d brain” then one rather soaked in a distilled grape derivative, I’d venture…

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