This Macbeth is set in a contemporary conflict zone and much of the text is translated into a contemporary idiom having the main speeches more or less intact. It is in Polish with sub-titles. The combatants are Christian and Muslim. A four-space triple-level bunker or compound is the platform for the action accompanied by a powerful electronic soundtrack, which intensifies the violent scenes that ensue. Fortunately the decapitations are out of view…
In this world we are very aware of the modern technologically advanced military machine in action and in this respect it is not unlike the Royal Exchange’s 2009 Macbeth but the Polish version is much more violent.
So, what of the witches? After entering a particular sector in this conflict Macbeth and Banquo hear the predictions, whispered in surround sound, from a woman in full black hijab. She is definitely ‘the other’.
Macbeth, himself, that non-descript man and solider, is galvanized by the illusory dagger scene and never have I seen this ordinary mortal, mere amateur, seized so effectively by the prospect of his altered prospects – a quite remarkable performance by Cezary Kozinksi. Thereafter the parameters of his world shrink to leave room only for the dictator. He even threatens to hang his wife if her declaration that she is pregnant is untrue. She herself is a tightly coiled spring of intensely concentrated energy, part-sexual, part-animal. Her ambition, once released by the knowledge of the predictions, is completely focused but soon dissipated by her psychological decline. The hand-washing scene is a brilliant demonstration of psychosis highlighted, literally, by her use of torchlight in the darker corners of the compound even whilst Macbeth sits by her side with an insomniac concentration that barely notices her.
This is an excellent and memorable production not least for its interesting treatment of the doctor who attends Lady Macbeth in her last hours. Not a minion but a super-glam vamp with shaven head and pink décolleté cocktail dress. She exudes a strange passive-aggressive malevolence and her diagnosis is given the same sound treatment as the witch in the opening scene. She is Lady Macbeth’s own witch.
Make no mistake. This is a production about that extreme and narrow set of values that inform the modern war machine. Malcolm and Macduff end up in hysteria having decapitated Macbeth. The women’s roles including the doctor’s are an extraordinary demonstration of intense passivity either retained or released. Either way they are a threat and Lady Macbeth is the fatal victim.