Recently, I saw a production of Macbeth at the National Arts Centre. It was very professionally staged, with World War I era costumes and props, the minimalist set design common in modern renditions of Shakespeare, good sound and lighting, and competent acting from all concerned. The blocking was especially well done, with creative use of an unusually shaped stage and almost cinematic interludes of voiceless combat between the later scenes.
While the play felt highly polished, it was somewhat lacking in intensity. Perhaps a play as well known and frequently performed as Macbeth doesn’t present professional actors with sufficient challenge or interest to generate a passionate performance, or perhaps it was just a night when they were a bit off. Some of the big set-piece speeches of the play (Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking, Macbeth’s ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow’ speech) were neither performed with straight drama or in a way that was interestingly unusual – they hung between directness and experimentation in a way that satisfied neither. That being said, the play was well worth seeing and a good introduction to theatre in the capital.
One thing I had forgotten about the play is the scene (IV, iii) where Malcolm goes on and on about what a bad king he would be. Perhaps it is unsurprising that he is succeeded by a ruler not his heir.