This is an excellent performance of Macbeth. A great deal of thought and commitment obviously went into it. Many lines are memorably delivered. The acting, even for the smallest parts, is of very high quality. The wounded Sergeant, the Porter, and Macduff's Wife are alone almost worth the price of admission. The commoners sound Scottish and the nobility English.
Macbeth is played by Stephen Dillane. It's an interesting interpretation. He starts out soft-spoken and pensive. After Duncan's murder, Macbeth often sounds as emotionless as an automaton, as though he has lost control of the evil potential within him that has been unleashed.
Fiona Shaw plays Lady Macbeth and is also credited as the director of the performance.
Fiona Shaw's Lady Macbeth is very interesting and worth hearing. There may be a little over-acting here, as each lines she delivers commands attention. Her Lady Macbeth sounds quite manic already at her first entrance. She comes off as emotionally unstable from the very beginning. There is nothing surprising about the suicidal madness that eventually overtakes her. The entire Tragedy could probably have been prevented with a little lithium according to this interpretation. The text allows for it, and it's worth considering.
On the other hand, here's why I deducted a star:
- The spoken line is sometimes delivered so dramatically, and with such distinct mid-line inserted pauses, that the poetic meter is lost and poetry is converted into prose.
- The performance is full of sound effects and music. They are usually quite effective, but the mood is often determined as much by them as by Shakespeare's text. Whether this is a net plus or minus is a matter of taste. Occasionally the sound effects are perplexing, and I found myself analyzing the director's thoughts rather than Shakespeares's. The music is usually either a kettle drum or a lugubrious cello, often quite loud. I don't object to music between the scenes, but the spoken line must often contend with musical accompaniment. My favorite speech in the play, "Tomorrow and tomorrow ... life ... is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing", is recited over an equally-loud lugubrious cello.
- The three "Weird Sisters" are given a little inserted text that Shakespeare never wrote. We hear their faint cackle once when they are not onstage, and they are given the final line in the play, a reprise of "When shall we three meet again ..."
This is a memorable, insightful performance of Macbeth that anyone who loves the play should hear.