Theater News Online
free issue
London Theatre Reviews
NY Theater Reviews
LTN Recommendations
NYTN Recommendations
Book Reviews
Movie Reviews
London Theatre Archives
NY Theater Archives
Latest New York News
Latest London News
NY News Archives
London News Archives
Peter Filichia's Monday Quiz
Dining and Travel
London Theatre Listings
NY Broadway Listings
Off-Broadway Listings
London Tickets
Advertise with us

Give a Gift


Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at Trafalgar Studios


  James McAvoy and Claire Foy/ Ph: Johan Persson

Following the launch of the Michael Grandage Company at the Noël Coward Theatre, here comes another exciting West End initiative, at the Trafalgar Studios, with theatre owners Ambassador Theatre Group signing up Jamie Lloyd, Grandage’s former protégé and associate at the Donmar Warehouse, to present “Trafalgar Transformed,” a season of new plays and classics.
Lloyd, who directed Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway last season and a striking Duchess of Malfi at the Old Vic starring Eve Best, has made his intentions clear with this opening salvo of Macbeth. It’s a fierce and noisy evening of thunder, lightning and disaster – and that’s before anything awful happens.
Because something really dreadful already has – such as, the apocalypse, perhaps, or a nuclear attack. The witches are in gas masks and even wise old King Duncan (Hugh Ross) is uneasily assessing the situation as reported by a very bloody captain. There’s even more thud and blunder in this version of the play than Rupert Goold’s recent revival with Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood.
Goold’s Scotland was an abattoir ruled by a dictator with a trophy wife. Lloyd’s Scotland is a fogged-up Celtic twilight zone where the Macbeths, a decidedly young and scavenging young couple – as played by James McAvoy (best known for his movie roles in The X-Men, Atonement and, ironically enough, The Last King of Scotland) and a luminous Claire Foy, a coming star – is clinging to the driftwood.
Macbeth’s promotion as a war hero is a signal to strike as society implodes and man’s feral instincts everywhere hold sway. And in the Macbeths’ case, the childlessness of the marriage has created a rift in the relationship that can be disguised, for now, by the rush to power.
Only in a young couple would this reading of the play be so powerful. When Foy alludes to her brief maternal history (“I have given suck and know how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me”) as a way of spurring him on, McAvoy beseeches her with a look not to go there.
Even more chillingly, McAvoy makes an unscripted appearance at Macduff’s castle where his hired murderers garrotte Lady Macduff (Allison McKenzie) with gruesome savagery. As they leave, McAvoy hears a child whimpering in a metal cupboard; slowly, he inserts his sword, like a macabre magician, and pushes firmly through.
The nightmare of the play is orchestrated by the witches (one of them is the Porter at the gate). Their cauldron double bubbles as a tureen at the banquet. “Fail not our feast,” Macbeth has said to his best friend Banquo (Forbes Masson, coming off a good spell with the Royal Shakespeare Company) before booking his demise.
The feast’s a gloomy, spartan affair on an improvised steel table. The first time he sees his ghost, we don’t, but then Masson materialises like a bad smell and wreaks psychological havoc. “The seed of Banquo” kings who form the dread vision of Macbeth’s barren reign is first planted by Banquo’s son Fleance, behaving badly with a gentlewoman (one of the witches), and thus propagating more evil spirits.
Lloyd’s production is full of such original and provocative ideas, none more so than when Jamie Ballard’s avenging Macduff, his face streaked in blue war paint, leads the mutinous forest of Birnam Wood to Dunsinane under a flurry of protesting placards. The bracing brutality of the play is here reinforced as it collapses the process of politics and opposition into direct, decisive action.
Lloyd and his designer, Soutra Gilmour, have built up the floor of the Trafalgar and placed 70 customers on the stage level area, so that they face us through the proscenium. This slightly lop-sided traverse effect works well enough and is certainly pregnant with future possibilities for this vigorous new enterprise. 


SUBSCRIBE TO New York Theater News
SUBSCRIBE TO London Theater News

Yes, Prime Minister contracts its run, while A Chorus Line expands its own.
POWERHOUSE OF THEATRE - After 11 years as the Almeida Theatre's artistic director, Michael Attenborough is stepping down to focus on directing. 

SONGS FROM THE HEART - Once the Tony-Award winning musical is set to hit London in January.

Wine, Fruit, and Gourmet Gift Baskets.
Privacy Notice   |   Front Page
Copyright © All Rights Reserved.