This time last week I was getting ready to watch Macbeth. It was a completely new experience for me. The National Theatre live broadcast of Manchester International Festival Macbeth was introducing Nissi Mutale to live theatre, not so live. So here was I getting ready to go to the theatre and cinema all at once. Confused…you should be. So, The National Theatre show live screenings of theatre productions at cinema. Amazing right?! Maybe you are not as late as I am, and already knew this happened, but I did not. Anyway, immediately I had loads of questions; what would be added to the experience? What would be lost? Would I ‘get’ what the sound and lighting were trying to do? Would the production have a more cinematic feel? Would I be conscious of the fact that the camera wasn’t at the right angle? Would I be thinking about what I am not seeing and feeling because of the camera angle?…And believe me, the list went on.
Watching the show I completely forgot about all these questions. That has to be a good thing, right? The show was amazing! Kenneth Branagh as Macbeth, Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth, Ray Fearon as Macduff directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh – dream team! The production was staged in a deconsecrated Manchester church on a catwalk type stage – audience on either side. The actual stage was covered in mud. The contrast of mud in a church made me think about the amount of dirt the characters would pick up as they walked up and down. The build up of mud symbolic of the growth of evil and sin as the story unfolds. The eeriness of the witches coming out of the church walls also showed how evil had crept into everything, the selfish ambition of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth evident and ill placed from the beginning.
The significance of the church really struck a chord during Lady Macbeth’s famous ‘hand washing seen’. Standing on the upper level of the church, the lady is seen marching up and down, then stops and is heard saying the following:
Out, damned spot! Out I say!…Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him. What, will these hands ne’er be clean?….. Here’s the smell of blood still: and all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh oh oh!
Set against the backing of the church, a new dimension of the lines is emphasised. Unable to confess and repent of her sins (as is practised in Christianity), Lady Macbeth is unable to simply wash away her sins.
All in all it was an amazing production. I did not take notes to bring a huge breakdown to this blog, but felt I had to, absolutely had to write something.
It was wow!