“Let not light see my black and deep desires”
Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin employed their dance-focused aesthetic on their production of Medea for the National Theatre last year and have now returned to it for this Young Vic, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and HOME co-production of Macbeth. It’s a unique approach which has moments of real visual acuity in Lizzie Clachan’s infinity tunnel staging but also pulls awkwardly at the play itself, dominating the verse to its detriment.
Which is a real shame, as a Macbeth with John Heffernan and Anna Maxwell Martin ought to have been a scorching thing, their interesting casting offering worlds of new possibilities for this old warhorse of a play. But Cracknell’s staging and Guerin’s choreography offers little room for them to explore their characters in a deeply satisfying way. Instead, a lack of palpable chemistry haunts their scenes whilst the dancing mainly distracts.
Heffernan offers up some interesting line readings as a shell-shocked general but it’s hard not to feel that his performance deserves a production that places the subtlety of his work front and centre, here it is just mis-matched. Maxwell Martin’s brusque and brisk Lady Macbeth seems to make more of a conscious effort to shift into the alternative style of the show but in doing so, lacks a crucial element of comprehensibility.
So many of the components of this production are interesting – the foregrounding of the witches, Clark’s equally omnipresent brooding electronic score, Nicholas Burns’ alternative Duncan, the starkness of the shadows created by Neil Austin’s lighting – but the cumulative effects felt sadly less than the sum of its parts. You have to admire the Young Vic’s fearless ambition in reimagining Shakespeare like few other venues in the UK, but clearly not everything can work as well as Measure for Measure.