If MACBETH is not the finest play ever written, it is certainly the most performed. The play explores the corruption of power and its terrifying results, both politically and personally. But while the themes are profound and complex, the form is hugely entertaining: this is a thriller, a war story, a romance, a nightmare, a horror story and a most powerful presentation of the supernatural. The witches ride above this play as both demons and restorers of the natural order that MACBETH and his murderous wife seek to destroy. The evil that the royal couple unleash rebounds upon themselves and, by means of the most extraordinary poetry, we, the audience, watch the collapse of naked ambition into tortured self-doubt and ultimate insanity.
TNT’s production, directed by Paul Stebbings, was the company’s first Shakespeare production. The production has been so successful that it has been constantly revived and toured worldwide since 2001 to over forty countries on four continents. This might be the most performed production of MACBETH this century. Audiences have thrilled to this production from London to Atlanta, from Beijing to Berlin, from El Salvador to Thailand and from Australia to Norway. This is a full-blooded version of the play, witch driven in its intensity. The production is not frightened of the supernatural, or compromised by modern dress. But this is not an old fashioned production either; the musical score by Paul Flush drives the play forward and creates a compelling sound texture of almost filmic quality. Forest and castle merge and melt. The witches are an almost constant presence, neither male nor female (or both) and as ruthless as Greek Furies. The acting is fast and physical. Above all the production releases the poetic intensity of Shakespeare, writing at the height of his powers.
The play is not so much interpreted as elucidated, exposing its universal truths. In our modern world where power seems divorced from morality and the irrational seems to sweep all before it, this mighty drama reminds us that we are not only corrupted but diminished by evil. For without a moral compass we shall be like MACBETH the murderous monarch: “Out brief candle… life is but a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more, It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
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