Shakespeare’s darkest of plays, Macbeth, isn’t the first you’d associate with comedy, much less stand up and vaudeville, but the brightest moments in Iqbal Khan’s disappointing production at The Globe brings howls of laughter – and not always for the right reasons.
Here we see a doomed and eccentric king gamboling childlike about the stage, tossing his silver-tipped cane about, his lines tripping lightly off his tongue. I half expected him to break into a song-and-dance routine.
Meanwhile Nadia Albina’s show-stopping turn as Porter is genuinely funny as she deviates from the traditional text to deliver a pithy improv sketch that includes mentions of both the referendum and Donald Trump. It brings the house down.
Here we have a beefcake Macbeth, played with heart by a muscular Ray Fearon. He always looks like he will acquit himself well in a battle scene, and so it proves in various skirmishes throughout the production, but he struggles to deliver the big speeches with any sincerity.
Tara Fitzgerald, as Lady Macbeth, briefly holds the Globe’s audience with her madness scene as she twitches, wrings her hands and howls like a banshee but it’s about the only time you actually hear what she has to say.
There is little voice projection throughout the entire play, making it extremely difficult to hear her. Didn’t anyone tell Fitzgerald that this was an outdoors production?
This is a very restrained and plodding Macbeth with lines either over-egged or seemingly ad-libbed (I don’t think Shakespeare wrote “whoa, watch it!” into the text but perhaps I missed it).
There’s none of The Globe’s trademark gore despite ferocious fight scenes and a handful of grisly murders. It’s all very clean, mechanical and by-the-book.
Does it make a difference that both Macbeth and Banquo (Jermaine Dominique) are black? No, not really. Any more than it does that Khan has given the part of Ross to Elizabeth Andrewartha or the roles of three young men to Kerry Gooderson.
Elsewhere Freddie Stewart, who recently wore the hollow crown in Henry V, seems more at home as Duncan’s son and king-in-exile, Malcolm, than his cameo as a surly, mud-splattered murderer who is dumped into the groundlings after a particularly lethal exchange.
His lengthy debate with the fiery Macduff (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) over the future of Macbeth, and the crown of Scotland, reveals him to be a man of intelligence and self-control, unlike Macduff who wants to storm the palace gates and take revenge with a sword.
The play’s infamous witches use puppetry and gimmicks to scare the bejesus out of the murderous Macbeth but they’re the least sinister or supernatural of any “wyrd sisters” I’ve come across.
This is a Macbeth that fails to excite or engage. There’s no horror or brutality, little mysticism or emotion and, at times, the cast try too hard with the text and, at others imbue the poetry with leaden delivery. A workman-like production.
Macbeth runs at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre until October 13.
Ray Fearon plays the murderous thane & Tara Fitzgerald his troubled wife in Iqbal Khan’s disappointing, workman-like production, of Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe.