Can Shakespeare still enthrall, despite numerous interpretations filling our theatres? Melissa Trachtenberg believes so.

Article by Melissa Trachtenberg | 21 Sep 2008
  • Liam Brennan as MacBeth

There are no bells and whistles in Macbeth, opening this season of Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre. There are no clever tricks, no contemporary adaptations, no Brooklyn accents or tasers. It is a sincere production prioritizing the elements so intrinsically crucial to a successful performance of Shakespeare, yet so often buried: talent… and words.

Liam Brennan's performance as Macbeth is breathtaking, as he brings the audience inside the mind of a very real, tortured man. Brennan's interpretation of the role places his Macbeth in a struggle between Hamlet and Richard III: he fluctuates between anguished self-reflection and numb absence, humility and ambition. Brennan moves gracefully through the character's contradictions as we witness his journey from a loyal soldier to a murderous tyrant. While Allison McKenzie's Lady M perhaps lacks the complexity that the character demands, the scenes between her and Brennan are charged and compelling.

The entire cast is very strong, with highlight performances by Martin Ledwith as Banquo and Christopher Brand as Macduff. Jimmy Chisholm bestows a welcome moment of levity and humour with his role as the Porter, and in the briefest of scenes, Claire Brown as Lady Macduff, charms enough to make the audience grieve her subsequent absence.

Director Lucy Pitman-Wallace has clearly imparted her own deep understanding of the text onto everyone involved, and creates a well-paced and moving performance of Shakespeare's dark and bloody tale. The ambiguously classical setting, realized through simple yet haunting costumes and set, allow the language to reach forward in its relevance and poignancy.