As an English teacher by trade, when you buy tickets to go and see a Shakespeare play – especially in London, you think you know what to expect. However, over the past few years, a number of more modern Shakespeare productions have begun to change people’s perceptions about what was once seen by some as a very “dated” genre.
When I bought tickets to see Jamie Lloyd’s production of Macbeth at the Trafalgar Studios – I didn’t know what to expect. My only previous Shakespeare experience (in London) was seeing Mark Rylance in Richard III at the Globe last summer. All I did know was that a very famous face would be adding his presence to the performance in the shape of James McAvoy.
On my first visit to this venue, which was hosting its’ first production since it’s auditorium had been reconfigured, I was greeted with a vision of the future. Flashing lights, broken steam vents and an almost deserted basement-esque scene greeted myself and the rest of the audience as we stepped into what was an already very tense atmosphere. This was certainly not going to be a traditional interpretation of the classic “Scottish Play”.
As the lights went out – the boundaries continued to be broken. Three witches – who could have come straight out of a Mike Myers horror movie appeared on the stage to commence what I can only describe as a nail-biting three hours. Disappearing as quickly as they arrived, we were taken straight into the action with the arrival of war hero Macbeth. Bounding on to the stage, covered in blood – it wasn’t long before McAvoy’s crystal clear blue eyes turned from triumphant soldier, into a paranoid and ambitious tyrant.
With the support of his mentally unstable wife (played superbly by Claire Foy), who is the driving force behind many of his early decisions, Macbeth begins a series of horrific and unthinkable crimes, against innocent people and even his own friends – all in the name of becoming King. But little does he know that he has greed and lust for power will eventually lead him to his untimely demise.
McAvoy is nothing short of sensational in the lead role. So captivating to watch, he holds the audience in the palm of his hand, and takes them on a journey which will leave them on the edge of their seats begging for more. There were certainly times where, as an audience member, I felt like he was talking to me personally, and this only added to my heart-stopping journey through this story. He moves across the tricky set with so much ease and his interactions with his fellow performers never ceased to amaze me with their utter believability and excellence.
He is backed up by a brilliant supporting cast, with stand out performances from Claire Foy (Lady Macbeth), Jamie Ballard (MacDuff) and the amazingly strong and powerful performance by Forbes Masson as Banquo – anyone who has witnessed he and McAvoy facing off when Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost at the end of Act One will understand how earth-shatteringly dramatic that moment is, especially with the amount of blood that Masson is covered in at the time. This is just one of many edge of your seat moments where you will be left breathless as a result of such drama!
Don’t be put off by the fact that this is Shakespeare. In fact, if Shakespeare had been like this when I was at school, I would have been a lot more interested in what my teachers had to say, and that is not only down to the Company, but to Jamie Lloyd’s superb direction and vision for such a classic play. This is a powerful, dramatic and brilliantly tense performance that I can guarantee you will not regret seeing! (if you can get a ticket!)
Reviewed by Olivia – who is our first ‘guest reviewer’.
Follow her on Twitter @TOABlueEyedGirl
15th April 2013