Macbeth ***

It must be greatly tempting to take on a production of Macbeth.  It is arguably one of the best stories and has some of the greatest characters of all time.  And though it may be a bit clichéd, it is also a bit delicious to think of producing a great production of Macbeth here in Scotland.

Unfortunately, the current production in the Bard in the Botanics is not a great production.  It is, however, competent and contains a few genuinely good moments.  It isn’t that it has any fundamental flaws that get in the way, but it does seem to have a lack of focus on a few key issues.

Chief among these is line delivery.  Speaking iambic pentameter can be difficult, and many English teachers have much to answer for when it comes to ‘showy’ line delivery.  Here, most of the lines are spoken clearly and projected well, but very few of the words actually manage to hit the audience.  Everything sounds well, but there is little meaning or depth in what is said.  There are many heavy speeches and scenes that should be riveting to listen to, but many of the lines are spoken lightly and carry little impact.

The staging of the production is also a bit weak.  The overall concept, doing a promenade production in the Botanics, is quite great, and there are moments that director Jennifer Dick manages to use the large landscape effectively.  But the action felt stale too many times, with things spread out too thinly and character immediacy all but absent in key scenes.  Wet grass also meant that actors seemed more intent on maintaining balance at times.

As for the cast, the performances are mostly a mixed bag.  No-one is bad, but those with little to no Shakespearean experience stick out rather obviously and at times seem to have little confidence in what they are doing.  Paul Cunningham looks great as Macbeth but seems too kind at key moments and speeches.  Beth Marshall is flawed as Lady Macbeth, having difficulty showing the character’s ambitious turns but is a marvel in the end when she goes mad.  However, Jonathan Fegan makes for a rather moving Macduff and has many of the production’s best moments.

Macbeth makes for a decent night out and has some rather good moments that make the production worthwhile.  But with some topsy-turvy line delivery and staging, it doesn’t reach the summit it so clearly wants to make.

Playing in the Botanic Gardens of Glasgow (weather permitting) until August 1.

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