Macbeth Review: National Radio

31 May 2004






Review by Frances Edmond

Lyn Freeman: First though, we review Michael Hurst's new production, Macbeth, in Auckland. Joining me with her views is our critic Frances Edmond. Hi, Frances.

Frances Edmond: Hi, Lyn. How are you?

LF: I'm very good, thank you.

Now Michael Hurst is turning into something of our very own Kenneth Branagh. He loves The Bard and he likes taking the lead roles.  What sort of fist does he make of Macbeth?

FE: Ah, look, Macbeth is magnificent. I have to say unequivocally, it's magnificent.  

I mean, Macbeth is such a dark and brutal play, you know, and it's the one where . . . I mean of all the tragedies I guess I think it's the one where there is no redemption for the hero at all. But, you know, Michael does a . . . it's a clear, it's (an) intelligent production, and he gives a very mature performance himself with great depth and subtlety.

And it's . . . look, I thought it was a really interesting interpretation too, because the action, it's like played extremely pragmatically, very controlled, almost kind of understated--I don't mean underplayed but sort of understated.  And it has the effect of making the decline of the Macbeths into meaninglessness, madness and death, you know, incredibly compelling--because it's so ordinary, it sort of makes it really extraordinary.  

And the production has a kind of momentum that gives it a sort of steady inevitability leading towards the sort of tragic end.  And the other thing that I thought, that you really get a very strong sense from Michael's direction of two realities, you know--on the one hand there's the kind of inner psychology of the Macbeth's, and then on the other there's a kind of outer presentation to the world, so it gives you a very psychological interpretation, which makes it really quite contemporary, I think.

LF: He's quite remarkable isn't he really. . . ?  

FE: Yeah, he is . . .

LF: . . . as an actor and a director?

FE: And also his performance. Like, I have to say it's a wonderful performance, you know. He takes the audience on Macbeth's journey from opportunist to nihilistic brute, and you get every emotional turning point, you know, from the temptation through the doubts through the wrestling with the conscience.  You know, when it gets to that really chilling point in the play, "I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more returning were as tedious as go o'er", you just know that he knows that he's going down this path before him and there are going to be no more doubts and there's no going back.  

And it's  quite . . . it's very powerful.  And you get to the end, there's a man who has destroyed himself and the world around him.  Because, you know, because you get the sense that he embarked upon evil and it became an end in itself and then there is the darkness and that's all he knows and feels. There's no kind of light or meaning left and it's sort of truly dreadful.

LF: Just quickly.  We've mentioned Michael; anyone else stand out for you in the cast?

FE: Yeah, Macduff is fantastic.  You know, he does that really hard thing where you've got to suddenly pull grief from the bottom of your being, you know, because his wife and children have been murdered, and Benjamin Farry as Macduff is really good.  

And I must mention the witches.  What he's done with the witches is really interesting.  They're played by Peta Rutter, Hannah Gross and Kate Prior, and they're dressed as nurses so that they're played with a kind of amoral efficiency.  They're the sort of nursemaids of the piece, you know. They're there as the sort of facilitators of destiny and it has the effect of making the production much more that Macbeth is in charge of his own destiny rather than at the whim of a sort of malign fate. And I thought it worked very well.

LF: Well, there you go. Sounds like pretty much a 10 out of 10 from you, Frances?

FE: It does; it was a 10 out of 10.

LF: Fantastic. Thank you, Frances Edmond, reviewing Macbeth which is currently on at Auckland's Maidment Theatre.




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