In this Polish production, set in something like the Iraq war, Macbeth is an air force major who leads a commando raid on a mosque, assassinating the enemy leader at his prayers.
A scene from 2008: Macbeth at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh Photo: Stefan Okolowicz
A burka-clad woman assures him he’ll get a promotion for this, and killing his general Duncan somehow makes him king of a country that sometimes is and sometimes is not Scotland, until another branch of the military conducts a commando raid on him.
Clearly Shakespeare doesn’t fit too comfortably into director/adaptor Grzegorz Jarzyna’s vision of the play. On a massive three-level bunker-like set Lady Macbeth’s bedroom doubles as an abattoir, entertainment at the Macbeths’ includes an Elvis impersonator, Macduff gets the news of his family’s slaughter by Skype, Banquo’s ghost walks around in the nude, the doctor is a sadistic shaven-headed woman in a ball gown, and Lady Macbeth’s search for cleanliness takes her to the laundromat, where she is killed by a short circuit in one of the washers.
Dialogue in Polish is translated back in subtitles, sometimes to Shakespeare’s words, sometimes to such infelicities as ‘Cut it out. Fate is fate’, and a number of strange stagings seem based on misunderstandings of the text, such as when Macbeth’s “Ne’er shake thy gory locks at me” results in a ghost with severe palsy.
In the midst of this, Cezary Kosinski, his face frequently projected in large close-up, succeeds in suggesting a Macbeth haunted from the start by the sense that his enterprise is doomed, while Aleksandra Konieczna portrays a sensual and sexual Lady Macbeth.