Reviews are coming in for Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London.
Max Bennett stars in the title role of Macbeth, alongside Matti Houghton as Lady Macbeth, in this new production of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy directed by Abigail Graham (The Merchant of Venice).
The cast also includes Aaron Anthony as Macduff, Eleanor Wyld as Lady Macduff, Fode Simbo as Banquo, Helena Lymbery as Duncan / Siward, Joseph Payne as Malcolm, Calum Callaghan as Witch / Porter / Murderer, Ben Caplan as Witch / Murderer / Doctor, Ferdy Roberts as Witch / Seyton, Gabby Wong as Ross, Luke Beggs as Young Siward, Timothy Daniel as Fleance, Max Ellis as Young Siward, Cam’ron Joseph as Macduff’s Child, Arno Perry as Macduff’s Child, and Elijah Sholanke as Fleance.
Alongside Abigail Graham in the creative team are Associate Director Naeem Hayat; Composer Osnat Schmool; Costume Supervisor Anna Dixon; Designer Ti Green; Dramaturg Zoë Svendsen; Fight Director Bret Yount; Globe Associate Movement Glynn MacDonald; Movement Director Jenni Jackson; Text Coach Michael Gould; Voice Coach Claudette Williams; and Wellbeing Practitioner Carol Cumberbatch.
Macbeth is running at Shakespeare’s Globe from 21 July to 28 October 2023.
Read reviews from i News, the Evening Standard, The Times and more, with further reviews to be added.
"Max Bennett’s jokey king is clearly unfit to govern"
"Gender swapped roles shed new light on dark days in a production – complete with gruesome bodybags and references to fake news – that feels aptly aligned to our times"
"To even up casting opportunity, most classical stagings now ignore the old code of M (male) and F (female) roles. The approach here, though, is less gender-neutral than gender-pointed. Director Abigail Graham makes the witches not weird sisters but a trio of sinister brothers wearing full hazmat suits and birds-of-prey masks."
"Aaron Anthony finds the full shock and horror in the tricky lines where Macduff learns his family’s fate, and fight director Bret Yount contrives unnervingly convincing murders."
"In a reading that may chime with both locals and tourists, Bennett’s often manic and jokey Macbeth is clearly unfit for office from the off. He tears off his coronation robes and crown (visibly resembling Charles III’s) as if they scorch his skin."
"Max Bennett’s bland Macbeth lets down this atmospheric production of Shakespeare’s tragedy"
"... in essence Abigail Graham’s Globe production seems a touch minor. There are some good - even great - ideas here. But the anticipation of all those hype-y leading men does underscore the fact that Max Bennett isn’t a very interesting Macbeth"
"Matti Houghton‘s earthier Lady Macbeth also feels a bit tossed away, never really getting to grips with a role that can seem peripheral if the actor doesn’t really grab it by the horns."
"On the plus side, Graham’s production is vastly surer-footed when it comes to the smaller roles. It’s often very funny. The boisterous male witches - Ferdy Roberts, Callum Callaghan, Ben Caplan - wear hazmat suits, conduct weird scientific experiments, cackle at the audience a lot and pull down plague masks whenever Macbeth comes near. They could be malign travellers from the future, they could be mischief makers from the present; they’re generally a lot of fun."
"There are many compelling ideas here: a grimly parodic coronation, the way the witches seep into every household role. Yet the black comedy stymies the play’s uncanny power to the extent the audience end up giggling over graphic scenes of child murder. Chaos is one thing, but this feels incoherent, a situation worsened by Macbeth’s descent into bare-chested hooliganism"
"For a play about power, this production is careless with its own."
"Ordinary domesticity alongside murderous ambition"
"Gender subversions and moments of shock and horror enliven a production that needs a sharper focus"
"Children are everywhere in Abigail Graham’s take on Shakespeare’s gory supernatural thriller, perilously close to the vortex of power that will suck them in and graphically destroy their tender bodies. Women – especially those in positions of influence – are equally at risk of being eliminated and forgotten: so much collateral damage."
"Bennett’s Macbeth is oddly colourless – a weak man caught up in the tide of events – and though he and Houghton have chemistry and she has ferocious energy, particularly in her anguished sleepwalking scene, they somehow seem almost peripheral to the thrust of the action."
"Ideology over quality strikes again"
"If only this production had spent as much time honing the actors’ verse as it had thinking about ‘colonial destruction’"
"The imprecise world of the play – now blandly modern, grey and barely ‘Scottish’ beside the odd tartan clothing – makes us scrutinise more intently what Max Bennett is bringing to the title role. Beyond his action-man looks, sudden flurries of petulance and increasingly erratic air, he seems too much of a blank page. His torso – bared during climactic scenes, when he struts and frets in shorts – is more defined than his verse-speaking, which pedestrianises some of the best lines."
"The evening is at its most compelling in exploring anxieties about succession, and the childless Macbeth’s crazed perception of the threat posed by others’ vulnerable offspring."
"Turning the witches into men is a gimmick that doesn’t work"
"Abigail Graham’s modern-dress production needed to be left in the oven a little longer to rise successfully"
"... director Abigail Graham has a number of intriguing ideas that remain stubbornly centrifugal rather than coalescing into a convincing whole."
"In her modern-dress production, the witches at least make for a striking spectacle: they wear white PPE suits and sinister bird masks, forming a sharp contrast to the beige chinos and trouser suits aesthetic of Queen – yep – Duncan’s court."
"The great blessing is that Max Bennett is a charismatic Macbeth, conveying a magnetic sense of presence the moment he and Banquo (Fode Simbo) arrive wearing combat fatigues and toting machine guns."
"Radical, uneven and clumsy"
"I really wanted to like this Macbeth more. Oh well: there’ll be another one along in a minute"
"Unable to match the star power of forthcoming versions of Shakespeare’s murderous Scottish thane from David Tennant and Ralph Fiennes, the Globe has opted for a staging that is young, condensed, and funnier than usual for its own take – though the latter innovation is not always a good thing."
"The central idea of Abigail Graham’s production, of a competitively youthful society where children are always present, is a shrewd and solid one, marred by an excess of concepts and performances that fail to connect."
"Max Bennett’s Macbeth appears strong and martial in his battle fatigues and body armour, but decanted into a Sunak-slim dinner suit he looks like an Apprentice contestant or an estate agent eager for one big sale."
"The murders are horrific but the cauldron scene is played for gruesome laughs. Houghton’s wrenching depiction of Lady Macbeth’s madness is bracketed by two comic caricatures. All the wrong bits of the infamously unfunny Porter’s speech are rewritten. The child actors, however, are great."
"More Brittas Empire than blasted heath"
"Is this a tragedy which I see before me? Abigail Graham’s lacklustre production provokes half-suppressed giggles rather than fear, dread or terror."
"Unfortunately Max Bennett’s hapless monarch reminded me more of one of the minor figures in the British comedy pantheon: Chris Barrie’s leisure centre manager in The Brittas Empire. The soliloquies have seldom sounded so flat, rushed and uninspired."
"There’s no psychological depth, either, to Matti Houghton’s Lady Macbeth, who for the most part adopts the hectoring tone of a disgruntled off-duty Zumba teacher. As they rise to power, dispatching a bland, gender-switched Duncan (Tamzin Griffin), it’s hard to care what happens to this would-be power couple."