right of reply Macbeth

Mark Rylance claims not to read the crits, so Matthew Francis, artistic director of the Greenwich Theatre, steps in to defend his star's much- maligned production

Look, I know you critics have to go to the theatre every night, and (this year at least) see a new version of Macbeth most weeks, and I know the trains to Greenwich aren't 100 per cent reliable and that it's much more difficult to write knocking copy than good constructive analysis... I know. I'm sorry. Life is tough for you critics, and it's not made easier when a truly imaginative director like Mark Rylance moves the goalposts, abandons the safe territory of critical respectability and presents you with a truly original staging of Macbeth like the one playing at Greenwich. It's so damned different!

But thank you for contributing to a brouhaha that has kept our box- office phones ringing from dawn to dusk. You see, when critics use words like "freakish", "weird", "outre", "bizarre" and "astonishing", our audience knows that something is going on that is almost certainly non- conformist and new.

Mark Rylance and his team have set Macbeth in a world of contemporary cult religion, and turned the noble warrior into an ardent devotee of a Krishna-like sect. The flavour of the production is somewhere between Le Grand Macabre and Pulp Fiction, with an up-to-the-minute exploration of the play's magic and mysticism that acknowledges all our modern-day obsessions with the occult, divination and esoteric therapies. When Banquo says, "If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not", or when the witches are busy brewing up their cauldron of alternative ingredients, we can see a society only made remote from our own by the medieval trappings in which it is usually dressed.

But some people don't like their Shakespeare to be too immediate, too dangerously set in the recognisable world of 1995. This doesn't seem to be a problem for most of our audiences, however, especially the younger among them. Eavesdropping on a school party at half-time last night, I heard comments like "Brilliant!", "Great!", "It's not like this at school." The visual vocabulary (pick-up truck, saffron robes, parkas, phones) makes the play accessible, and the absence of an inflated rhetorical style (which many still equate with good verse-speaking) means that a young audience can hear the text clearly and really believe that it has something to say to them.

Too little mention has been made of the production's many ideas and conceits. I was particularly struck that the Porter becomes the watchful Old Man, then a reluctant Third Murderer, who actually helps Fleance escape, then the Messenger who warns Lady Macduff that she and her children are in danger - thus turning four briefly glimpsed characters into one study of compromised benevolence. And it's a great coup to have Young Macduff - lately murdered by Macbeth himself - return as a ghost (a "cream-faced loon") to tell Macbeth that the English army is approaching. And why has nobody mentioned Clare Van Kampon's powerful piano score, or Rick Fisher's atmospheric lighting?

I can put you right on a couple of points. The work the company put in on the play was detailed, exacting, well-researched and utterly coherent. Their grasp of the text and a whole range of its contemporary implications is impressive. And let me assure you of something else. The Globe is in good hands. The unholy schadenfreude to which some of you gave vent in your reviews, predicting disaster for London's newest theatre, could not be more misplaced. Rylance is a director of outstanding vision, diligence, commitment and audacity. The Globe is lucky to have him. Greenwich will vouch for that!

Finally, bear in mind the terrible fate of Percy Hammond - who, as Simon Callow reports in The Road to Xanadu, gave a dyspeptic notice to Orson Welles's famous voodoo Macbeth in 1935. The show's witch doctor cursed him with a particularly virulent chant. His notice appeared on Tuesday, he took ill on Thursday and was dead by Sunday.

n Greenwich Theatre: 0181-858 7755

Arts and Entertainment
Emo rockers Fall Out Boy

music

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment

film

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links