Pretty much in the middle of the first row of seats at the Tramway tonight was a well found spot. Excited theatre chatting ensued all around us, as the spot the empty seat game got harder and harder, and the lights went down.
Alan Cumming‘s rendering of MacBeth probably doesn’t need anymore hype. But if he does that between now and the end of the month, and he will, the people of the twenty first century who do not know about his achievement will become as hard to find as an empty seat at a royal top table.
If you’ve not seen my vimeo of the excerpts and conversation I was lucky enough to be part of yesterday, here’s a link.
To play an excellent Banquo would make most of us proud. Not only is Alan’s Banquo brilliant, but his Duncan is delightful. His MacDuff is majestic. His Macbeth? Don’t start me. And I know I’ve lived a sheltered life, but I remember few witches as shocking.
One hour forty five is short. From walking on stage to taking his bows Mr Cumming drums, dances, cries, dies and breaks on behalf of all the blessed and brutalised human beings evoked in Shakespeare’s amazing play.
“I find new bruises every day,” he told us yesterday. No wonder. He also told us that the last third of the play is “pretty disturbing”. I don’t know what he made of the first two. They didn’t look like a walk in the park.
But I know what he means. When I think of MacBeth and murder, it is always Banquo I think of.
Obviously, there’s a lot of it going about. Banquo’s ghost is particularly horrifying. But Duncan’s bed is at once never seen, and never off the stage. It lurks murderously in the corner of the set.
This is the first Macbeth I’ve seen since I became a father. The sacking of the Macduff castle has never made me cry. It has now. Benchmark stuff.
This is art, with a capital ART. This play need no more inform the constitutional debate in Scotland than Hamlet would illuminate coalition politics in Copenhagen, or the Merchant of Venice allude to modern Italian socioeconomics.
We are treated to a completely human power. But that human journey is also about power. If the throne was not available, no blood would have been spilt. And with his gaolers absent, and the much maltreated Malcolm ensconced on the throne, who is the broken figure who collapses on their bed at the end of the sorry tale?