With a sparkling new artistic director at the helm of The Globe Theatre flagship, an electric progression of Emma Rice’s 400th Anniversary ‘Wonder Season’ over the past six months, and a new generation of theatre-goers introduced to the Bard via the BBC’s Hollow Crown trilogy, Iqbal Khan’s interpretation of the Scottish play has firm foundations of popularity upon which to build. Adhering to The Globe’s heritage of authentic and accurate Elizabethan recreation, yet sprinkling a trickle of Rice’s contemporary creative flare onto the twenty year-old arts charity, Macbeth combines the blood-soaked torment of the play we know with the experimental comedy of the play we don’t.
It’s apparent from the outset that this isn’t the Macbeth that Michael Fassbender, am-dram tragedy and an unchanging GCSE syllabus have accustomed us to: an unconventional quartet of witches open the play, puppeteering the generic and usually unimportant injured soldier of the first scene, who declares the savagery and nobility of the eponymous anti-hero to a verging on senile Duncan. Khan’s ‘weird sisters’ steer and manoeuvre the plot with manipulative deliberacy, The Globe production assigning an abnormal degree of control to a normally merely witnessing collective. But the unorthodox calls of the Khan-Rice directorial tag team refuse to end there. The Macbeths have a child, relatively unnecessary until his boyish charm leads Malcolm to gift him the crown at the play’s conclusion, and the refreshing ballsiness of Nadia Albina’s scene-stealing porter is a game changer. “I pray you, remember the porter” is no longer a request, it’s an inevitability.
An effect too often glossed over, ignored or frequently botched, Shakespeare tactically placed a bombardment of erection jokes in the immediate aftermath of a crime against God. Albina remasters and updates the porter with the significance it deserves, wielding her disability as comic relief and referring to “the other devil’s name” as Donald Trump to thunderous applause. A cast unafraid to experiment and improvise, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd’s “Can I get her number?” as Macduff closes a production-defining scene with the gag it needed – A flawless and hilarious take on topical humour, Nadia Albina was born to be the porter.
Forever a script of madness, hysteria and a world torn to shreds by failing masculine stability, Macbeth himself, RSC and National Theatre veteran Ray Fearon, simply ticks each and every box with ease. Awe-worthy and dominating testosterone-fuelled stage presence? Check. Genuinely concerning descent into self-destructive fear and loathing? Check. A murderous usurper with a relentless vendetta against his rivals, yet somehow harnessing the charisma to earn the support of a one thousand five hundred strong auditorium? Check.
Khan’s Macbeth is invigorating, firmly rooted into The Globe legacy and injects a tactically chosen fine line of investigative drama into the tradition of the Southbank’s beloved playhouse. Easily one of the most superb productions I’ve seen of The Globe’s extensive back catalogue of way-paving, and an enticing take on a four hundred and ten year-old piece, stretched to its limits by repetitive pop culture. Original, effective, revelation-like.
Running until October 1st, tickets are available via www.shakespearesglobe.com