Royal Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth: Too Tricky By Half

Richard Lutz takes his seat for the new season in Stratford

The worth of Macbeth- and Shakespeare for that matter- are the words.

And when you get tricksy with the theatrics, tricksy with the perceived symbolism or just plain tricksy, you lose the power of these words.

And this is exactly what happens as the Royal Shakespeare Company launches its first official production in its new theatre in Stratford.

Despite the menacing acting of Jonathan Slinger in the main role, the whole play is simply too clever by half. There are just too many affectations and theatrics. The power of the words are lost.

For instance, the production makes much of the fact that three children play the eerie witches who tell Macbeth of his future. No hubble and bubble here but a trio of middle class English kids slung airborne on hooks. Macabre, yes.

But the child actors re appear-I guess as some sort of memory of the supernatural- as MacDuff’s children who are butchered by Macbeth’s  assassins.

Does this work? No. Confusion reigns. Have I missed a point here? There’s a link between some witch-like magic and the hero’s dead kids? I don’t get it. Tricksy, too tricksy.

Another questiontable idea that doesn’t work: The drunk porter for some reason is a whacko imitation of a terrorist (see picture above) with dynamite strapped to his waist. Why? Does it work? No, it’s trite and takes away from the loopiness of his words.

Despite this, Slinger successfully twitches and  fumes as Macbeth, Ailsin McGuckin turns in a bravado performance as his power hungry wife and Steve Toussaint is an imposing dreadlocked superhero in the role of Banquo hounding Macbeth from the grave.

Good solid performances but a bit lost amid the stagey hoopla.

+Macbeth is at Stratford until 6th October. Box Office: 0844 800 1110.

Richard Lutz will review Shakespeare’s ‘lost’ play Cardenio later in the week.