The National Theatre’s Scottish Play is an uneven production of contrasts, of highs and lows, of moments of grandeur and pathos undercut by workmanlike delivery, unremarkable performances and a mishmash of styles.
In Rufus Norris’s vision of the play, medieval Scotland is re-imagined, not always convincingly, as a modern day post-civil war zone, of bunkers, basements and beheadings.
Rae Scott’s impressive ramp dominate the stage, creating an atmosphere of power and gloom, but it jars with the rest of the set, with much of the action taking place in a tatty old bunker that serves as Macbeth’s castle. The banquet scene is set in a curious prefab filled with tatty plastic chairs.
Prior to its national tour this version was slammed for its lack of emphasis of the poetry of the language, and although it’s since been re-cast that criticism is still valid.
Michael Nardone is a brutal, down-to-earth Macbeth, a stocky Scots soldier, and no great speaker of verse. When Lady Macbeth (Kirsty Besterman) describes him as too full of the milk of human kindness to be capable of murder of Duncan (a noble Tom Mannion), it’s as if she’s talking about someone other than her thuggish husband.
As he unravels though, his mind ‘full of scorpions,’ Nardone achieves real poignancy. The most moving scene is when, holding his dead wife in his arms he utters: “Out, out, brief candle….” from the heart. Jane Tadman