Review Roundup: MACBETH- Featuring Alan Cumming
On June 15 The National Theatre of Scotland production of Macbeth starring the Tony Award-winning Alan Cumming opened at the Tramway Theatre in Glasgow, and the show just transferred to the Lincoln Center Festival on July 3.
John Tiffany and Alan Cumming (who made his stage debut as Malcolm in Macbeth in 1985) originally worked together on The National Theatre of Scotland's production of Euripides' The Bacchae which took the Edinburgh International Festival by storm in 2007 and subsequently toured in 2008 to Aberdeen, Inverness and Lincoln Center Festival.
Let's see what the critics had to say about it...
Charles Isherwood, New York Times: Mr. Cumming delivers the verse with lucidity and intelligence, and it is undeniably pleasing to hear the Scottish play performed with an authentic Scottish accent. But his rendering of Macbeth's culminating burst of pure nihilism - the "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" soliloquy - comes across more as a petulant screed than the brutal philosophy of a heart drained of every last drop of humanity.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: If his full-throttle commitment to the concept of this audaciously reimagined Macbeth is any indication, a restful hiatus between seasons of The Good Wife was apparently not a priority for Alan Cumming. Staged as the obsessive fever dream of a schizoid patient in a psychiatric isolation unit, The National Theatre of Scotland production renders secondary the tragedy's political core drama of ambition and power. Instead it harnesses the text's mood of hallucinatory dread to reflect on mental illness, taking an unsettling tour through one man's broken mind -- a place aptly described by Shakespeare as "full of scorpions."
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Using a mental patient as the framing device makes intuitive sense for "Macbeth" since the play is filled with visions – "Is this a dagger which I see before me?" – and references to addled brains. "O, full of scorpions is my mind," Macbeth tells his wife at one point. The team was careful not to push the point, however, and sought advice from a psychiatrist from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
Linda Winer, Newsday: To everyone's enormous credit, Cumming doesn't use high voices for the women or change much more than a gesture to delineate different characters. For the witches, a device that almost always reads scarier than it plays, he turns his back on us and makes an odd angle with his long arms. We know Banquo from the apple he jauntily tosses. We know he's dead when Macbeth takes a bite.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: The most compelling scenes involve Macbeth and his wife. Moving a bath towel from his waist to his chest, Cumming switches from one to another with casual brilliance. A seduction on a bed has a cold-blooded eroticism.