The Scottish Play in Edinburgh

There are very few plays that written over 400 years ago  succeed in enthralling an audience consistently and with heights of engagement. The recent production of Macbeth staged in Edinburgh and due for onwards productions in London and Washington DC,  forges an abiding memory.

A keynote of the production  can be described as ‘never a dull moment’ where the content of the play is streamlined to establish and maintain an aggressive narrative.  On immediately reading a copy of the work in my Oxford Shakespeare after attending the play,  this proved invaluable in linking the memory of the visual scenes with the lines  of printed  text.

Some more obscure elements of text have been omitted, various of which relate to a focus on  the freedom of action of the three witches,  who in the text receive a rebuke from their ‘overseer’ in describing their actions as ‘over-bold’.  I might even venture to peruse the  text of a First Folio edition for another perspective.

Even in the dread despair of the deceased Banqo appearing at the feast, after his final disappearance the lines ‘Why so, being gone, I am a man again. Pray sit you still.’, Ralph Fiennes as Macbeth  succeeds in making the audience chuckle to break the tension. In Macbeth’s fall into ways of ever greater violence, to maintain control can be well seen parallels of more recent times and history.

There were moments of violence during the play when I must confess I did avert my gaze, such as the dispatching of Macduff’s wife and children on the stage. This was in fact the  debut of such young and promising actors.

One is ever  on the look out  for phrases of text of Shakespeare that carry into modern speech   – one being  ‘be-all and end-all’ in Act 1 scene 7 that springs to mind. This is where Macbeth wishes but doubts that the killing of Duncan will mark the end of the trail of violence.

All the celebrated speeches resonate but perhaps  Indira Varma excels as Lady Macbeth in her  rendition of her ‘direst  cruelty’  speech after reading Macbeth’s account of his encounter  with  the three witches.  This is theatre at its pinnacle of electrifying achievement.

A close second comes Macbeth’s ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow ..’ speech which so well  charts the decaying edifice of his fortunes.  Another unforgettable moment …

The fight scene leading up to Macbeth’s demise is, to say the least, well done, and from the clanging sound of steel on steel we can conjure up the imagined sound of battle as multiplied a thousand fold.

The production is zippy, modern with pyrotechnics. The sensation  of heat  upon my face I do recall as in my late purchased seat near the wings,   I was close to the site of detonation.  My heart skipped a  beat, however, when early in the play I observed Lady Macbeth walk down  a steep flight of steps in green high heeled shoes.   Also, I thought earnestly of the careers  of the Props  Directors when all  three witches clamoured onto  the dining table.

Well done to the extensive creative supportive team including the Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington DC whose Artistic Director Simon Godwin produced the performance – assisted by a flock of co-directors.  Thoughts flick back to the heady days of the Globe Theatre when all of the myriad roles of production were undertaken by a mere handful of people.

One cannot help but think that in Macbeth Shakespeare is holding up a mirror that will reflect more clearly attributes of the light and the dark.

The welcoming blasted heath……

By northernlight1

I have interests is a wide range of topics and have written on these and more formal subjects for quite some time. The written word still retains the power to inform and motivate - hopefully constructively and certainly has to be used responsibly in an age of false information trails.


  1. Had the pleasure of being in a mid 80’s performance at Bread Loaf School of English in VT as a lord and the Doctor. We all took Alan’s advice to stay safe during the run.

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