Dare I say this is the ultimate Macbeth? Overwhelmingly greater than the sum of its parts, director Rupert Goold’s British touring production aims at achieving the “be-all and the end-all,” and one would be hard pressed to find another production that comes as close.
This is, through and through, a director’s show, and, mercifully, Goold is one who has every right to hog the spotlight. This West End transfer starring Patrick Stewart gives us, at last, a portrait of Western drama’s most famous political serial killer that’s actually frightening. One wicked invention follows another. Costumes, music and videos conjure up the glamour and the dread of a between-wars Eastern Europe. An industrial elevator lit to perfection transports soldiers, ghosts and, in moments of Kubrickian chill, bursts of blood. And, finally, someone has figured out how to work in the witches without being hopelessly hokey. Though some of the innovations miss the mark by a mile and get the brow furrowing rather than the heart pumping — the witches’ lapse into techno-rap, an out-of-nowhere Les Misérables-inspired chorus number, a befuddling act break followed by the repetition of an entire scene — Goold’s overarching view is so cohesive that his at times far-out translation never upsets the text.
As the killer-turned-king, Stewart might have a tendency to whimper and moan, but it’s a forgivable part of the maestro’s music. His every speech plays as a movement in a symphony, refined to the last detail, performed with the passion of a star soloist — and to hear that famous voice live and counting tomorrows is every bit as fun as you’d think. While he and his Lady Macbeth, Kate Fleetwood, don’t exactly heat up the set, and in fact seem to shine best when they are apart, this meticulously imagined horror show is one of few theater events this winter that might make waiting outside for a spare ticket — be it in thunder, lightning or rain — a storm worth weathering