Macbeth, Shakespeare's Globe, London
Monday 03 May 2010
The play hasn't started and you're already saying, with Marlowe's Mephistopheles, "Why this is hell, nor am I out of it." The smoke is billowing, the bells are tolling, the bagpipes are wailing and, down below in the pit, the heads of the groundlings are peeking through a black tarpaulin like the lost souls on Judgment Day.
Director Lucy Bailey says that she stood in the middle of the Globe and immediately thought of Dante's description of hell as a vortex of nine descending levels. She's followed this through, with a barbaric, bloody and superstitious Macbeth driven by the three witches.
In stark contrast to the swift, stark and chamber-scale productions of this play stretching from the legendary Trevor Nunn version with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench right through to Declan Donnellan's recent uncluttered Cheek by Jowl reading, the Globe shows a world of political and domestic well-being torn apart by evil forces. And it lasts three hours.
The Macbeths are a good-looking celebrity couple in the pairing of muscular, well-constructed Elliot Cowan and pert, short-haired, slinky Laura Rogers; they writhe in sexual ecstasy on his return from the fray, and it's the sexual taunting that drives Cowan's destructive urges, as well as his wife's obsession with status.
Cowan's on the edge, behaving oddly from the minute he murders Duncan – James Clyde's benevolent monarch is seen singing songs with his followers – and once his mind is "full of scorpions" he's lost. Cowan's voice is slightly fuzzy, but he tempers it with a falsetto, scary element as he hurtles towards the showdown in Dunsinane and Rogers, plaintive and abandoned, drifts into her own nightmare.
It's an exciting reassertion of a Macbeth that's been largely forgotten. And it exploits to the full the physical dimension of the space, with bloody corpses writhing around in the black tarpaulin with the punters, messengers and musicians invading the upper circles.
To 27 June (020 7401 9919)
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 2 Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 5 Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Big Brother 2015 new housemates: Simon Gross returns as stripper Marc O'Neill, model Harry Amelia Martin and X Factor reject Sam Kay join
Burning Man festival revellers accidentally torch prehistoric artefacts in Israel
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'