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The Macbeths review at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow – ‘intense yet limited’

Charlene Boyd and Keith Fleming. Photo: Alex Brady Charlene Boyd and Keith Fleming. Photo: Alex Brady

Although director Dominic Hill is known for his inventive scenography, The Macbeths is a stripped back adaptation of Shakespeare that uses minimalist lighting and a single bed for a set.

Emphasising domestic conflict as the driving force, it allows Keith Fleming and Charlene Boyd to offer fierce interpretations of the power couple and reduces the political turmoil to a violent struggle for relationship dominance.

By dropping Shakespeare’s structure and wider political concerns, Hill draws out the intensity of the core relationship, but the trickery – the witches become tape recordings, the murder a symbolic slathering of blood across both bodies and sheets – is a limited substitute for Macbeth’s scope and grandeur.

The Macbeths
Photo: Alex Brady

Boyd is a sensuous and vicious Lady Macbeth, and Fleming captures Macbeth’s anxious masculine bravado, but the characters remain at a single pitch. Evoking a neo-brutalist theatre of sexual savagery, the nuance and humanity of the personalities are hidden beneath paranoia and brutality.

In scaling down the production, Hill’s ability to support striking performances is made more explicit, but the loss of subtlety and spectacle undermines the powerful performances: while it effectively explores one aspect of the script, to an appropriately juddering and aggressive soundtrack by composer Matthew Whiteside, the emotional journey of the characters is undeveloped and the rhythms of the play are lost in a relentless battle of wills and desires.

It is a bloody and gory vision of Shakespeare that renders his poetic imagery awkward and reveals – perhaps ironically – the bluntness of his characterisation.

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An intense yet limited chamber vision of Shakespeare