Macbeth at the NAC


in Daily updates, Ottawa

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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mica Prazak January 21, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Roman Polanski’s rendition of MacBeth is perfect.

That and Zefferelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” are my two favourite Shakespeare productions.

Check them out.

Milan January 21, 2008 at 9:38 pm

I agree about the Roman Polanski film. It is as bloody as a rendition of Macbeth should be – a trait that the Handsworth production was right to emulate. The bloodlessness of the NAC production probably contributed to its somewhat abstracted air.

Zefferelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” I shall keep my eyes peeled for.

Mica Prazak January 22, 2008 at 12:12 pm

You can find Zefferelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” on DVD everywhere for about seven dollars. Worth an immediate purchase.

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