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Macbeth review: David Tennant is a compellingly intense Scottish king in Donmar’s show of sonic trickery

Lady Macbeth’s whispers crackle in your ear as audience members wear headphones in Max Webster’s intimate production, but the sound design can sometimes feel like a distraction

Alice Saville
Monday 18 December 2023 08:20 GMT
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David Tennant as Macbeth with Cush Jumbo as Lady Macbeth
David Tennant as Macbeth with Cush Jumbo as Lady Macbeth (Marc Brenner)

The tiny-but-mighty Donmar Warehouse’s production of Macbeth sold out at lightning speed, and no wonder. Who wouldn’t want to be just metres away from huge-name talents David Tennant and Cush Jumbo as they plot grimmest, bloodiest murder? But although this is a towering pair of performances, restrain your FOMO: Max Webster’s tricksy, headphone-based production doesn’t fully channel the dark magic of this intimate space.

“You put your nice claes [clothes] on to see a radio play!” jokes the hilarious Jatinder Singh Randhawa, mocking the audience in broad Scots in his convention-shattering take on the Porter scene. He’s exaggerating, of course. Webster’s staging is hugely striking to look at, its 21st-century Scottish clansmen glimpsed brooding through swirls of haze, clad in Alexander McQueen-esque black kilts and asymmetrical tailoring. Jumbo is mesmerising as Lady Macbeth, her stillness and composure suggesting hidden depths of insanity, her moral compass shattered. And Tennant makes a compelling Macbeth, all restrained, troubled intensity as he steps further and further into a swamp of bloodied ambition.

Jumbo is mesmerising as Lady Macbeth, while Tennant makes a compelling Macbeth (Marc Brenner)

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