NT’s Macbeth in rags and tatters ★★★☆☆

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The new NT’ production of Macbeth directed by Rufus Norris has sparked much controversy among critics and caused polarisation in views. 

And though it is true, that there is a lot to argue about, one thing is undeniably brilliant – the setting.

The set designer Rae Smith has created an usual look for the Shakespearean play: a Gothic-style decoration representing a barbaric almost post-apocalyptic (“Mad Max” style) world torn apart by civil war. The characters are dressed in rags and tatters, the stage is represented with a massive curved ramp and loads of black plastic. Even though you have to give your eyes a bit of time to adjust to the unusual surroundings and to the lack of light and shade, the set looks spectacular and makes a strong statement.

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The opening scene with the three witches is striking, with the third witch (Hannah Hutch) stealing the show. Hutch’s character is incredibly creepy as she twitches, glitches, giggles and runs across the stage like a disturbed haunted child.

The Macbeths are broke living in a tiny trashed hut. The characters are dressed in rags with Macbeth’s armour being strapped on with parcel tapes, which actually looks fantastic. Macbeth aspires power and kills his way to the crown. Though, the social order in such a savage post-apocalyptic world is not very clear, as why would you aspire the crown when there is no kingdom? 

Rufus Norris’ interpretation of the play is very interesting, though Rory Kinnear’s soft performance makes his Macbeth an intriguing, though weak and paranoid figure, which is difficult to square with the fact that he is presented to us as a bloodthirsty character in a very brutal and dynamic production. Anne-Marie Duff, on the contrary, projects a strong female character of Lady Macbeth.  Unlike her husband she sees the potential for advancement and leaps into action. The chemistry between the leading couple is exceptionally strong.

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Watching such strong actors (Rorry Kinnear, Anne-Marie Duff) on stage you really wish for the play to be more simplified and, perhaps, more traditional. Nevertheless, it is definitely a play worth seeing and a visually arresting work one could never forget.

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