Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre Miscast Macbeth

Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre Miscast Macbeth

Article excerpt

Macbeth Globe, in rep until 13 October Private Lives Gielgud, until 21 September It's always a problem with Macbeth: what accents to use? The Globe is applying the traditional remedy. Lord and Lady Macbeth come from Epsom. Everyone else comes from Glasgow. This is a highly entertaining production - one of the best at the Globe in recent years - but it's not entirely perfect.

Joseph Millson has pretty much everything you need to play Macbeth, good looks, physical stature, a soldierly bearing and a dash of melancholy. But he has something you don't need at all. A gift for laughter. He's such an instinctive comedian that he sends the audience into fits, without noticing it, by accident almost. And in the oddest places, too. Macduff and Lennox arrive at the castle where Duncan lies murdered. Macbeth sidles on from the wings and greets them, in his nightshirt, all stilted anxiety and shifty glances. It's a performance Groucho Marx would have been proud of. Lennox talks of 'lamentings heard i' the air, and rough screams of death/ And prophesying, with accents terrible/ Of dire combustion and confused events/ New hatched to the woeful time.' Macbeth agrees, 'Twas a rough night.'

This too gets a massive laugh. And Millson's tragic oratory at the end seems more like a chamber recital than a heart-wrenching act of self-discovery. I couldn't quite suppress the notion that I was watching a handsome young Leslie Crowther auditioning for Braveheart. Millson is a wonderful presence on stage but he's got the wrong skill-set for Cawdor.

Samantha Spiro plays Lady Macbeth as a fairy godmother with fangs. Her sleek, kittenish exterior conceals a psychotic ambition that is entirely believable but, like Millson, she gets more laughs than she means to.

In the smaller roles there's a lack of nobility and pathos. Billy Boyd (Banquo) seems rather suburban beside Millson's dashing and rangy Macbeth. Stuart Bowman can't find anything more in Macduff than monotonous spikiness, and he gives the thunderous line 'hell's kite' a prosaic cadence, like a Govan shop steward ordering the boys to down tools.

Eve Best, a distinguished actor in her own right, directs the play with a lot of good sense but she can't resist the urge to tinker.

She gets the witches to hide in the balconies and to pop out from behind pillars doing towit to-woo noises in the middle of the night.

This adds less to the atmosphere than one might have hoped. …

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