Philippa Domville and Hugh Thompson (phot by David Hou)
this Macbeth is a bull who charges forward and destroys everything in his wake
That the Macbeths have lost a child is something that is usually ignored (Lady Macbeth alludes to it only once).
As the eponymous character, Hugh Thompson makes Macbeth into little more than a petty thug who quickly finds himself in over his head. Adept on the battlefield, Thompson’s Macbeth is not exactly a great tactician. Lady Macbeth (Phillipa Domville) does her best to help but this Macbeth is a bull who charges forward and destroys everything in his wake. Other characters are given an equally bold re-imagining. Rosse (Thomas Olajide) is an oily turncoat while Prince Malcolm (Greg Gale) is an effeminate peacock.
The show is set in the modern world - designer Victoria Wallace has given us some modern dress and at some point a piece of chewing gum makes an appearance – but it’s probably better not to consider the logic of this (Scotland hasn’t had a monarchy in a few hundred years). In any case, the story is a timeless one; the where and when doesn’t matter so much as the why. And it is here that Wells and his crack team of actors have managed to shine a few new spotlights into Macbeth’s dusty corners.
For the most part, this interpretation serves the text and illuminates the impact of loss and grief on the disintegration of the self. It did, however, lead Wells to interpolate an unfortunate “twist” ending into the last four seconds of the play. It’s more or less harmless but it still felt like a slight misstep that undermines the drama of the final climactic moment. It’s bound to provoke discussion - at least among writers and Shakespeare purists; everyone else will probably not give it a second thought.