Review: Macbeth, Dock X

Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma bring heavyweight conviction to Macbeth at Dock X but the production lacks the necessary spark

“Stars hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires”

In all honesty, I desire all actors I like to stop doing productions of Macbeth. Despite (or maybe because of) its ubiquity (see here for the more than 20 productions I’ve reviewed), it’s rarely been a play that works particularly well for me onstage. Cush Jumbo and David Tennant had just a decent stab at it at the Donmar with technology both helping and hindering the production. Here, all mod cons have been stripped away as Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma entice Londoners out to Surray Quays and Dock X.

Directed by Simon Godwin and adapted by Emily Burns, this production of Macbeth has been occupying “custom built theatre spaces” (ie: warehouses) on its tour – Liverpool and Edinburgh have been done, Washington DC is next to come. Combined with its contemporary setting, with Frankie Bradshaw’s impressive set design recalling any number of modern war zones, the expectation might be for something quite daring to emerge but in reality, this is really quite a conventional production at its heart.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It offers Fiennes and Varma to deliver a masterclass in verse-speaking – his sonorous voice enrichening every line with deeper meaning and her ability to connect both with him and with the audience is on glorious display. It makes it all the more convincing to see the way their relationship deteriorates to the point where she’s flinching at his touch, appalled at what has become of their indulgence in rampant ambition, the reality of their actions tipping them each closer to the edge.

But it is hard to see what world this Macbeth is really in though, the vaguely defined modernity means it is hard to discern wider context for motivation. Lucy Mangan, Danielle Fiamanya and Lola Shalam’s reimagined witches are fascinating but confusing with their unexplored new status, the supernatural essentially being stripped away here meaning Banquo’s later spectral appearance thus feels odd. Ben Turner’s anguished Macduff hits home harder than usual though, death as collateral damage so contentiously present right now. Altogether solidly done, but lacking excitement.

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