DD140642

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DD140642

DD140642 is a newspaper clipping of a review of Macbeth (1971) by Michael Billington, who was working as drama critic at The Times newspaper at that point in his career.[1]

Transcript

Macbeth
Greenwich Theatre
Michael Billington

For its first venture into Shake-
speare the Greenwich Theatre has
pluckily chosen the most difficult
play in the canon to realize on the
stage. It demands an actor who
can encompass both the soldier
and the poet, a director who can
evoke the overthrow of harmony
in a hitherto ordered society and
a designer who can create a back-
ground of evil without plunging us
into Stygian gloom.
  Despite a rather grey and hol-
low performance by Alan Dobie
as Macbeth, Ewan Hooper's pro-
duction gets nearer the centre of
the play than more ambitious
revivals. Liberally employing
what Henry Reed once dubbed
"reinforced concrete music" and
setting the action on a tilted pro-
montory suspended above two
jagged-edged rostra, it evokes the
right atmosphere of eerie ambi-
valence in which nothing is but
what is not.
  Thus the apparitions in the
Witches' Cavern are shimmering
back projected shapes resembling
faces seen through the bottom of
a glass, the Witches themselves
are strange hybrids with pendulous
breasts and vulpine countenances,
and Banquo's Ghost is one
moment a figment of Mac-
beth's imagination and the next
a visibly blood-boltered wraith.
  But good as the production is
in its presentation of the super-
natural, it sorely needs a more
clearly defined Macbeth. Mr.
Dobie begins in such a danger-
ously low key that when he asks
if it is a dagger that he sees be-
fore him, he seems scarcely in-
terested in discovering the answer.
-----------------------------------
Likewise Macbeth's great flight
of extravagant hyperbole after the
killing of Duncan is so damped
down as to be virtually meaning-
less. And even the idea that he
has sold his immortal soul for the
sake of Banquo's issue excites little
more than a rasping anger. Ellen
Terry once compared Irving's
Macbeth to "a great famished
wolf". I would liken Mr. Dobie's
to a mildly ravenous terrier.
  However as Macbeth sinks
deeper into despair his performance
gains in intensity. In tehe banquet
scene, literally turning the tables
on his guests, he displays the right
hysterical passion and in the final
act he has the pathetic vulnerability
of any helplessly trapped animal.
It remains, however, an excessively
muted performance that seems too
dry and deliberate to convey the
barbaric magnitude of this melo-
dious tyrant.
  There is compensation, though,
in Hildegard Neil's Lady Macbeth,
which has sufficient youth and
sensuality to make sense of the
passage where she desires to be
unsexed and to explain her hold
over her husband. I also liked
Richard Gale's strong-willed Mal-
colm, though it seemed slightly
gratuitous to have him gnawing a
chicken leg from his picnic basket
during his colloquy with Macduff.
Still the majority of Mr. Hooper's
inventive touches are much hap-
pier and he has certainly provided
the most stirring hand-to-hand-
combat between Macbeth and
Macduff that I have ever seen.

References

  1. Michael Billington's career in his Wikipedia entry
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