If you’re uncertain about whether a production of Macbeth is any good, just ask yourself – are the weird sisters sufficiently weird? While magical realism is present in lots of Shakepeare’s plays, it’s intrinsic to Macbeth, driving much of the action. If it’s poorly executed, tragedy quickly slides into farce.
In the Globe’s production, the sisters deliver. Draped in black sheets, their prophecies are mournfully sung, accompanied by an organ-like funeral dirge interspersed with Biblical sounding Latin. As if that isn’t creepy enough, they’re always on the move, appearing to Macbeth as an assemblage of severed body parts, which they exchange to create new, contorted creatures.
To director Iqbal Khan, then, I say, top witches. The casting is thoughtful, too. Ray Fearon’s Macbeth is relatable, coming across as a noble soul caught in a conflicted situation, while his power-hungry wife, played by Tara Fitzgerald, is a pragmatist simply doing what needs to be done, approaching the murder of a king like a tax return.
Bizarrely, the Macbeths have a son, which goes against pretty much every textual analysis. But then the Globe is hardly renowned for catering to purists, as the Porter demonstrates here, with her satirical asides about referendums and Trump. Khan’s Macbeth the Younger doesn’t say anything, but rather stands about as people direct soliloquies at him.
At risk of damning with faint praise, it’s all a bit odd, but in a way that intrigues rather than baffles. And if you walk away from a production of Macbeth unsettled, then it’s done its job.