Unforgettable Macbeth

I didn’t have a category for theatre, but our experience two days ago requires its own category. We saw an ‘encore’ of the live performance of Macbeth relayed to the cinema from a deconsecrated church in Manchester and starring Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston.

The stage was the central aisle and the apse of the church. The floor of the body of the church was a muddy heath and the sides were wooden hoardings, with the audience raised and confined behind them (I was reminded of the barreras in a bullfight). Witches appeared from windows and doors let into a wooden screen at one end. At the other, the apse (with a hard floor), was an oasis of calm lined with banks of candles and the stained glass windows soaring above.

The action, hemmed in by the hoardings on that narrow stage, on the mud, gave us ambition, love, power, anger, despair and spiritual agony. The noise of men and arms rebounding off the wooden sides created a real sense of physical effort and danger in the battle scenes. Emotions seemed heightened by being confined and channeled by the spaces.

The comic elements and the witches were introduced without destroying the tension. Every word was audible every line comprehensible, casting brilliant. The whole was potent and compelling beyond any production of Macbeth I have ever seen.

This was a short run for the Manchester Festival only, but I understand that the live recording will be going out internationally in cinemas in October. See it.