Let me just start by saying that a show like this would not have been a personal preference for me up until now. I’m usually a musical theatre-jazz hands-show tunes kind of girl. However, after seeing this play that was brilliantly directed by Rufus Norris, my eyes have been opened to a whole new aspect of theatre.
Rufus Norris directs a cast of exhausted war survivors with everything around them damaged and distressed due to that war. The set included a bridge that was built like a ramp that the cast slide around the stage, which then makes room for tired, basic buildings. I was in awe of how this was planned out. It was so effective that worn-out buildings were shown on stage, rather than huge, grand castles. This really helped me as an audience member, to understand how things really were. Or will be. I say this as the play is set in a future that is definitely not as we know it. With all of our luxuries, such as the internet, taken away due to our current greed. We see corruption, we see division shown in countries and we see a great lust for power. So, the idea that this play gives is that due to all of these things, a civil unrest is very possible and could be very close. I loved that nothing was glamorized. Everything was shown so boldly, so I congratulate the designer, Rae Smith.
Macbeth tells the story of a brave Scottish general named Macbeth (played by Michael Nardone), who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife – Lady Macbeth (played by Kirsty Besterman), Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the Scottish throne for himself.The visuals of the pole climbing witches were spine chilling. If the dirty, torn apart costumes and hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in 3 years wasn’t enough, every word they said was projected in disturbing echoes around the theatre. It was very intimidating and frightening, in the best possible way!
Norris’ take on the play was intense, heavy, dark and harsh. And, I couldn’t write a review without mentioning the one of the play’s biggest themes – mental illness. Mental health is being talked about more now than ever before, to make sure everyone has a better understanding, to make sure we all help each other and to get rid of the stigma in order for everyone to be able to speak about it unapologetically. Although people were less aware of mental illnesses in the past, they are not a recent development. And this story is solid evidence. Macbeth is a character, introduced to the world in 1606, that could be diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
Posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD can occur after a person has been a victim of or witnessed a life-threatening or distressing situation. William Shakespeare exemplifies posttraumatic stress disorder in Macbeth, through Lady Macbeth’s flashbacks, emotional detachment, and insomnia. Shakespeare includes a theme that was not common for his time in this play. Lady Macbeth portrays many traits that associate with posttraumatic stress disorder in various scenes of this tragedy. Although she may seem stoic and unaffected by the events around her, in reality, she is deeply impacted by her emotional response to her actions. This is most accurately depicted by her suicide. It is implied that Lady Macbeth commits suicide due to her mental state getting the best of her. Shakespeare took a bold step in depicting a theme such as mental illness that was unheard of by most people in the seventeenth century. I’ll stop there as I could go on forever about these aspects of the show.
I came away feeling educated, as I have not studied anything Macbeth related since GCSE English. And even then, I never saw the play. I’m so glad I took the opportunity to see it. To write a review on it is an honour. I admire everyone from the National Theatre that had any sort of involvement with this production. I felt like I was thrown head first into a completely different world from the moment I entered the auditorium. It was beautifully creepy, scary and powerful. I would like to thank The Wales Millennium Centre and WICID for giving me this opportunity.