Shakespeare-athon: The manic Merchant of Venice
Shakespeare-athon: @propellertheatr Comedy of Errors and why I now like Shakespeare's comedies

Shakespeare-athon: Bloody Macbeth (and my 50th play)

Macbeth-984211595 After the outlandish matinee performance of The Merchant of Venice it was time for a more sober, evening performance in Stratford. But that doesn't mean Macbeth was dull or lacked a few of its own surprises, certainly not.

It was a far more straight down the line production albeit with a bang or two. Few props, traditional costumes, musicians and of course my favourite: stage blood. Lots of stage blood.

Jonathan Slinger, whom I loved as Richard II four years ago, takes the lead as the ambitious lord persuaded to take a murderous route to the throne on the prophecy of three witches and the encouragement of his wife.

And it is solidly done production in traditional RSC style. Whenever anyone is wearing white you know they are going to get bloody; when someone goes off stage to fight, you know they are going to come back on bloody and, whenever someone has a knife or a sword in their hand it's reasonable odds someone is going to get bloody.

The nice twist in this production, although and again this is a confession of my own ignorance because I didn't fully appreciate it until quite far in, is that the three witches have been replaced by three children. The fact that I was still waiting for the witches to appear long into the story (I'm not telling you how long, it's embarrassing enough) I'm blaming on only having seen the play once before.

The children first appear from the gods, like dirty and dishevelled mannequins lowered on ropes. Indeed until they started to speak I thought they were mannequins. The script has been doctored so that "sisters" become "children" and the scenes where the three witches talk among themselves have been cut which is what triggered my confusion.

Putting that to one side, it actually worked really well. The three children/witches later appear with the sort of dolls commonly used in horror films adding to the creepy atmosphere and psychological tension.

The three child actors - Tallulah Markham, Charlie Waters and Charlie Blackwood for this performance - all did a superb job in what is their stage debut, dealing with wire-work, props, make-up and voice effects without batting an eyelid and to great effect.

They also doubled as the short-lived MacDuff children, later appearing with the other ghosts of Macbeth's victims. Their echoed laughter adding to the haunted, sinister atmosphere that fans the flames of that protagonist's already singed sanity and increasing his paranoia.

The adult actors put in good turns too although I couldn't pick a particular stand out performance. Where they came into their own was during the fights that seemed to have added energy, speed and viciousness of intent I've not seen before.

So, yes, it was a good, solid, enjoyable Macbeth. It rattles along a good pace and where there was razzmatazz and colourful effervescence in The Merchant of Venice here there was atmosphere and horror.  It will be the nightmarish children and their dolls that stick with me and it's getting four stars.


Yep this is my fiftieth play this year - how did that happen? There have been some corkers and still plenty to look forward including more Shakespeare - Richard III with Kevin Spacey and Richard II with Eddie Redmayne...


Had to work a bit at this one and ended up finding three.

1. Jamie Beamish who plays Seyton was in the film Hanna, in which Tom Hollander appeared who acted with Samuel Barnett in Desperate Romantics and the latter has worked twice with Mr W, first on stage in His Dark Materials and then in Bright Star.

2. Madeline Appiah who plays the Lady in Waiting was in Welcome to Thebes which features Daniel Fine who was in the stage version of the History Boys which of course also starred Sam Barnett (see above)

And finally because it unlocks the Danny Webb connection which finally gives me a 6DS for Blasted and Chicken Soup with Barley...

3. Aiden Kelly who plays MacDuff was in Blasted with Danny Webb which also starred Lydia Wilson who was in Crimson Petal and The White with Romolai Garai who is soon to be seen alongside Mr W in The Hour.