Review Roundup: West End's MACBETH Starring James McAvoy
The show plays the Trafalgar Studio in Whitehall Theatre, as one of four plays to be produced in the new space featuring designer Soutra Gilmour. Lloyd is considering hiring an all-Scottish cast for the show, which will be set in a "distopian separatist Scotland".
On stage, McAvoy has also appeared in Donmar Warehouse's Privates on Parade, the Apollo's Three Days of Rain and more. McAvoy is in post-production on film projects Filth, Welcome To The Punch and Trance, and will next appear in X Men: Days of Future Past.
McAvoy's other film credits include The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, Wanted, Becoming Jane, and X-Men: First Class. On television he has appeared in State of Play, Shameless, Children of Dune and Band of Brothers.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Maxwell Cooter from whatsonstage.com says: Lloyd ensures that Macbeth is treated suspiciously very early on: Banquo packs his bags with supplies of food as he seeks to make his getaways and Jamie Ballard's Macduff is dripping with contempt as he makes plain his reluctance to attend the coronation. Ballard comes into his own in the scene where he learns of the death of his family, his emotional intensity exacerbating the tragedy.
Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard says: McAvoy's Macbeth never feels regal yet he is a warrior through and through. From the outset he is steeped in blood; it's almost a surprise when we see him scrubbed clean, and the spruceness doesn't last for long. A man of action, he appears happiest when barking or bullying, and soon he is succumbing to paranoid delusions. I've seen the role played with more poetic subtlety but never with more energy.
Michael Billington of the Guardian says: This production has a lot going for it. It stars James McAvoy (Atonement, The Last King of Scotland) as Macbeth. It takes place in a reconfigured space that gives this steeply raked theatre greater intimacy. And, in launching a season of plays directed by Jamie Lloyd, it is one more step in the commercial theatre's realisation that its future lies in artistic continuity. But, although it's a good occasion, there's a relentlessly visceral quality to Lloyd's production that eventually becomes a bit wearing.
Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph says: But there is no doubt that Lloyd's production, set in a post-apocalyptic Scotland which has been laid waste by war and climate change, packs a powerful punch. The cast are dressed in bedraggled clothes that look like rejects from the Oxfam shop, while the Macbeths' castle, with an on stage lavatory into which Macbeth pukes violently before killing Duncan, is more squalid that a student flat during the Edinburgh Fringe.
Libby Purves of the Times says: There is a time near the end of this noisiest of evenings, when in eerie silence James McAvoy slumps on a battered chair, machete on his lap... It is riveting. McAvoy gives it all that Shakespeare offers, and redeems my earlier doubts. Yes, he is a Macbeth worth seeing, though one that is not for the fainthearted. And Claire Foy's Lady Macbeth is a revelation: a teenage virago, unsettled and psychotic. Lloyd has a knack of creating intensity (most recently in the Old Vic's Duchess of Malfi) and hysteria gets almost too tightly wound in the first half. And so the endgame: mesmerising quiet before battle, a final brawl as the front rows cower from axe and machete, a warpainted Macduff in a garotting grapple, and McAvoy - clearly not a man to flinch from physical pain - tipped headfirst down one of the witches' trapdoors until his horrid severed head is brought aloft.
Paul Taylor of the Independent says: For my taste, the production is a wee bit over-the-top but there are sequences where it achieves an extraordinary thematic penetration. Macbeth is a protagonist who, in killing a king, commits a slow spiritual suicide. The idea that his world contracts into a kind of hellish solipsism is thrillingly conveyed here when, for their second encounter, the gas-masked witches pop up through trap-doors in his palace and McAvoy, desperately ladling their brew into himself, hawks up the voices of the apparitions from his own guts until the endless line of Banquo's heirs emerge through the various doors in proliferation of nightmare replicas of the weird sisters. It's as if the predictions have become an infernally literal self-fulfilling prophecy.
Zoe Craig of the Londonist says: In Jamie Lloyd's post-apocalyptic production, James McAvoy's Macbeth first yomps onto stage with his face dripping in blood. It's a high-octane start for a show seeped in graphic violence and gore. Which is perhaps fine for the computer game generation, bred on a monochrome diet of blood and guts, but if you've been nourished with the slow, screw-tightening subtleties of Shakespeare's finer tragedies, you may find something lacking. The titular hero's noble origins are nowhere to be seen: here, Macbeth starts out as a murderous terrorist. Which ultimately leaves this disappointing production nowhere to go.