5.37pm, Sunday 10th March, St Thomas St, SE1, London, England, UK
Evening folks, and it’s not snowing outside, only because it’s wet with it, so that means it’s sleet!
I’ve been hiding inside for a while, but I was out earlier – went and had a look at the Museum of London – and will go back my last afternoon in town in two weeks time – it’s a sensational building chock a block full of interesting stuff on just what a magnificent piece of work London really is. But I wanted to do a spot of theatre review before going any further, as I’m proud to announce that I’ve actually made it through a complete work of Shakespeare – live on stage! I know that’s a bit tragic for someone who as been in England each year for 10 odd years, but having it shoved at me at school … I never really fell head over heels in love with it … not even liked it. However, I was given some seriously good advice before I left the winery – “go and see this particular production of Macbeth – it’s set way in the future, has a really well respected and creative director, and James McAvoy in the lead role! And if you don’t go … you’re a heathen!”
Seeing as I have tremendous respect for this particular giver of advice, I promptly booked my ticket, and handed over about $120 of my hard earned cash.
And much as I realise now that doing “Macbeth” as your first Shakespeare is jumping in at the very deep end, I did much the same without knowing it by having Laphroig ‘Triple Cask’ as my first Single Malt Scotch Whisky – and I lived with that experience. I’m pleased to report I’ve had a similar result from last night’s outing at the theatre – Trafalgar Studio One on Whitehall. I not only actually followed the story – with all the ‘dost thee and thous’, the ‘thanes’ of this and that part of Scotland – I actually found myself on the edge of my seat at interval … because I’ve never read the play … didn’t know what happens in the end!
Now before we go any further, the whole thing is set way way way into a future Scotland, where it’s a bit of a Mad Max industrial wasteland world, lots of sparking shorting out electrical circuits and all the players in urban guerilla kit – including the three ‘toxic avenger’ looking spirits of premonition, who set the whole story up by telling Macbeth that he’s set to become the new King of Scotland. Not only that, but theyre quite specific in their fortune telling – Macbeth’s in the box seat because he can only be killed by a man ‘that’s not of woman born’ – I got that clearly. And, he should only start to panic in the extremely unlikely event of the ‘Birnham wood’ marching up to the doorstep of his fortress Dunsinane. I got that clearly too. And so … dear theatregoers … the story begins!
And what a story. Duncan the good old king currently in charge of Scotland with two delightful young sons comes to stay and party with Macbeth – totally loved and revered by the guerrilla army as its top operator – and his wife – that would be Lady Macbeth – and that’s where the trouble starts!
Boy, talk about behind every successfully bloodthirsty killer man … is an even more scary woman! Lady M takes the cake!
She’s the one that gets Macbeth onto the murderous road to fulfilling the ‘in charge’ prophecy by killing the king, then just about every other living soul that presents any threat to his position – real or otherwise. Even the women and kids! Nasty! It’s a pretty ‘wet’ show actually, lots of toxic waste, gallons of sweat, tears and spittle … and a river of blood. And those two nasty pieces of work – Macbeth and his missus – really quite deserve each other and are forever trying to wash all that blood away. No wonder both of them go ’round the twist’ mad by the end.
Thank goodness for our heartbroken hero Macduff, born quite ‘unnaturally’ and so able to make the old witches’ words come true! Major threat! And the soldiers camouflaged as trees moving on Macbeth’s stronghold … tick that box … the forest actually marches! And in the end – yep – Macbeth and Lady M reap exactly what they sow.
And I was worn out!
That James McAvoy has a very very physical time of it! Sliding across the industrial wasteland factory floors on his knees – long handled axe in one hand, machete in the other! Up on the tables, throwing blokes hither and yon, and dashing left right and centre with total blood curdling focus. Let alone the ‘you could hear a pin drop’ intense and private marital moments at home … definitely a lotta love in that particular house … at least between husband and wife! I didn’t think there was a weak link in the cast chain actually, but for mine it was your man McAvoy! Big voice, quiet moments, seriously physical – won me and I’d not seen any of his movies. Just the right Scot for the part, and to hold my hand for my first big dive into Shakespeare! Many sincere thanks. Then there’s Jamie Ballard as Macduff, Claire Foy as Lady M, Mark Quartley as young Malcolm (we’ll see more of him no doubt) and a young lad Kevin Guthrie as Lennox. Top show.
But Shakespeare – I’m on to you.
You’re the consummate entertainer! That was a massive stack of words across several hours to illustrate what point? Nasty folks come undone eventually. There’s Macbeth at the end of the day, after all the furore of chasing the crown, he finds out that the love of his life is dead, and what momentous comment does he come out with? All that drama for nothing!
And Shakespeare – you did well – made yourself a legend pushing out set after set of those fabulous words and they’re still talking about it hundreds of years down the track. Now I can see why I was told to get myself along to this show “Macbeth”, and how dopey am I that its taken me so long to see what all the fuss is about! If you’re in London whilst the show is on, folks, try and get there! Even if you can’t get a ticket – I think it’s pretty much a sellout – at least go in and support the theatre – buy the program, read it, and follow the folks in the cast – they’re good!