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Macbeth review at the Young Vic Theatre, London – ‘turgid’

John Heffernan and Anna Maxwell Martin in Macbeth at the Young Vic Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton

There’s a relentlessness to Carrie Cracknell and choreographer Lucy Guerin’s take on Macbeth. The pair, who previously collaborated on Medea at the National Theatre, have created a very physical take on the text, with dance playing as large a role as verse in their version.

The look of the production is certainly striking. Lizzie Clachan’s perspective-skewering corridor of a set, with its sliding panels, would not look out of place on the Starship Enterprise, and the text is interspersed with dance sequences, some more effective than others; a trio of twitchy witches in big knickers wield plates of something unidentifiable: cake or baby? It’s frustratingly hard to tell.

There are some interesting ideas at play here, the constant masking, the covering of faces, and there’s an appealingly propulsive quality to the music, but more often than not it feels like the movement sequences have been clumsily Sellotaped to the text.

John Heffernan gives a typically graceful and subtle performance as Macbeth, the man speaks verse with great clarity and emotional precision, but at times his approach feels like it belongs in another production entirely. Anna Maxwell Martin’s brisk, clipped Lady Macbeth, however, feels more in keeping with the overall feel of the piece, and there’s strong support from Prasanna Puwanarajah as Banquo.

Though condensed to two hours without a break, the production is oddly lacking in tension, and despite the distinctive visuals, the jarring, cinematic flickering of Neil Austin’s lighting and the often inventive physicality, there’s something remote and clinical about it as a whole. It is airlocked and turgid.

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A physically inventive, but remote and clinical take on Macbeth