There was never much doubt this production would see the Everyman out in style, and it soon became clear watching this Macbeth that it would be an across-the-board critical success that would barely need reviewing, yet here we are. I’ve read fair ones, fawning ones and a-bit-bonkers ones but the verdict is quite unanimous – this is a stellar production that captures Liverpool theatre truly at its best.
Homecoming boy David Morrissey proved an able and spectacular Macbeth, choosing a natural delivery over a full-on Shakespearean performance. He brought humanity and a great strength to the role, bringing out all its complexities and taking the audience on one hell of a ride.
The remarkable set made the most of the opportunity afforded by this being the final production on the Everyman stage. To create more space, it has been extended into the backstage area, and holes have been ripped into the floor to give the impression of ruin. There was an almost post-apocalyptic feel. Maybe, given what’s shortly to happen to the theatre, that was part of the point. Lighting, too, was notably good – harsh strip lighting added to the bunker atmosphere, or created the shadows in which nothing good could linger.
The costumes, too, were excellent in their simplicity, helping to distinguish characters and allegiances (this brought to mind last year’s contrasting Playhouse production of Antony & Cleopatra, which failed to do so). Lady Macbeth’s cream gown almost anticipated Pippa Middleton’s now famous bridesmaid dress, and everything got grubbier as the story plumbed the depths.
As Lady Macbeth, Julia Ford – a last minute replacement for Jemma Redgrave – showed a vulnerability from the off and didn’t resort to sneaky, feminine wiles. Less the driving force of their murderous deeds than a puppet for the Fates, her relationship with Morrissey’s Macbeth was deep and compelling, their initial fear palpable and real. The weird sisters (Gillian Kearney, Eileen O’Brien and Nathan McMullen) writhed with a gross sensuality, proving as always a highlight of The Scottish Play.
Macbeth can be performed with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Yet it was the physicalities and thoughtful direction of this performance that created an intense atmosphere a lot more than just screaming and shouting can do. Upon hearing his family have been slaughtered, the colour drained from the face of Matthew Flynn’s excellent Macduff and everything was conveyed through a tiny gesture, a small twitch in his hand as the shock sank in. Subtle movements like that could produce goosebumps. As an actor, Morrissey was transformed, becoming Macbeth. The climactic showdown with Macduff was spine-chilling, unforgettable theatre and drew audible gasps from a rapt audience.
This production looked fantastic and was ambitious and strong. It delivered beyond expectation, and can immediately take its place as one of the definitive works of the Bodinetz/ Aydon era.
Macbeth runs at the Everyman until June 11. Picture by Helen Warner.