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A furiously visceral dance-theatre take on the Scottish Play
Has the Young Vic reached peak Young Vic? London’s sexiest directors’ theatre piles everything into this visceral dance-theatre version of ‘Macbeth’: two superb directors in Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin; a brace of primo leads in John Heffernan and Anna Maxwell Martin; a clanging omnipresent score from avant-techno artist Clark; a brilliantly ominous industrial set from Lizzie Clachan; a wonderfully menacing, rarely offstage trio of jerkily dancing witches. I was entirely thrilled by two visceral hours that felt like pigging out on all the coolest things about contemporary theatre.
But is it a production of ‘Macbeth’ for the ages? I’d say not: much as the dance and the theatre elements feel blended together – mostly thanks to the extraordinary unnerving-alluring work of the dancing, twitching, chanting Weird Sisters(Ana Beatriz Meireles, Jessie Oshodi and Clemmie Sveaas) – the fact of the matter is that the actors are actually slightly adrift in Cracknell and Guerin’s production. There isn’t really a context or interpretation particularly in evidence in this modern dress take on the Scottish Play (or if there is the context it’s that it’s ‘Macbeth’ with dance – the medium of the production is also the reason for the production).
Heffernan is great as a slightly neurotic, civil servant-ish Macbeth, who falls in love with murder after his first taste of political assassination; Maxwell Martin is good as the level-headed Lady Macbeth who encourages her husband to murder King Duncan then finds herself losing her taste for killing (though I’d question the decision to have her nervously charging through Lady M’s later lines). But they often feel like the only fully formed human characters in a bleak hell inhabited only by them, the malevolent witches, and fleeting impressions of the rest of the story.
There are moments when you can imagine what a full-blown ‘Macbeth’ from theatre director Cracknell would have been like – the blackly funny banquet scene is excellent – and moments where you can imagine what a version from choreographer Guerin might be – the stunning, wordless coronation scene, in which Heffernan performs his only real bit of stylised movement. They look like they would have been pretty good. This version is good too, a fantastic ride, full of sound and fury. But ultimately, I’m not sure it signifies much.