Lyric Performance of Macbeth Reviewed

Macbeth Reviewed by George Fleeton. 

George Fleeton

THE most mature period of Shakespeare’s prodigious output was redolent with his greatest tragedies.

Hamlet, Othello and King Lear had each preceded Macbeth, itself written about 1606.

Shakespeare took enormous liberties with the little that was known about the real Macbeth, who had reigned as an apparently effective King of Scotland from c. 1040 to 1057.

The Bard of Avon’s Macbeth deals with the tragedy of a fictional individual’s conscience.

When we first meet the Thane of Glamis he is a man of strong but imperfect moral sense who will stop at nothing to get and to keep, at any cost, what he covets.

By end game he has lost all feeling and conscience and he is unable to react to his wife’s death or to the car crash of his own life, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Shakespeare’s psychological insights, the play’s bitter humour (so well foregrounded in Belfast Lyric Theatre’s new production, seen on October 25, and its many passages of great poetry are still impressively valid, four centuries later, resonating for us today in the parallels of the tragedy of Syria’s civil war, and of Bashar al-Assad’s twenty month-long reign of terror.

Macbeth must be the most maligned of all Shakespeare’s plays, that is to say diluted and distorted by self-serving directors whose egomania almost matches that of the principal character.

Lynne Parker’s staging for the Lyric was anything but: it was pitch and pace perfect.

The dramatic impact of this production both purged and informed us as we watched convincing performances of someone else’s mental distress (Lady Macbeth’s) and physical torment (Banquo, the Macduffs and Macbeth himself).

In that alone, the genius of this play was stimulatingly well served, and Stuart Graham conveyed all of his character’s downward spiral from brashness to megalomania while paying full respect to Shakespeare’s complex and elaborate courtly language.

Both sound and lighting designs had clearly been worked at, but on a set which gave the eye no excitement, nowhere to wander, for two and a half hours.

George Fleeton writes independently on arts and culture.