Returning to, and re-staging, the "classics" is not without challenges, not least because they were often originally written at a time when actors were considerably cheaper to hire than they are now. Through their combined resources, Perth Theatre and Tron Theatre in Glasgow have gathered together a cast of 15 for this new joint production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, but even that relatively large number are required to double or triple up–on occasions, casting one character aside before assuming another simply by throwing one coat off-stage before catching another that's thrown to them.

In several respects, however, director Rachel O'Riordan turns this restriction to her advantage; the three witches, for example, are played by three male cast members, meaning that even when they're playing members of the Scottish nobility–Lennox, Ross and Caithness–there remains an echo of the weird sisters in their movement and expression that turns the witches from fly-by-night instigators of misrule into a more lingering, evil presence. With the rest of the cast slipping from one role to the next, the audience focuses all the more on the continuity provided by the actors who singularly play the main roles: Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Malcolm and Macduff. And, in addition, the gender-recasting of the witches means that, thanks to an edit which shifts Lady Macduff's murder off-stage, Leila Crerar as Lady Macbeth gains all the more attention as the only woman we see in the flesh.

And this, alas, is part of the problem. Crerar's Lady Macbeth is presented like some feral wild child, little more than a good-time party-girl who goes too far and psychologically cracks up almost immediately. Of course, the Tragedy of Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's most male-dominated plays, but this production's deliberately dirty, sweaty masculinity–in which the two strongest colours are the warm red of blood and the cold grey of stone–unbalances the story too far. Even then, there's something not quite right; Keith Fleming's Macbeth is certainly a believable medieval warrior, with the physique and expression of a rugby player slightly past his prime, but some of the other younger noble warriors look just a little too lean and 21st century to totally suspend the disbelief.

The final challenge that a play such as Macbeth throws up is its language; arguably, this is genuinely Shakespeare's most popular work, given how so many of its phrases and expressions have long-since run free through British culture. This makes it all the more difficult for the actors to reclaim them as living, breathing dialogue, and certainly not all here achieve this; while Fleming certainly has a feel for the dramatic poetry of Shakespeare's words, others still seem more focused on delivering the words accurately, in the right order, rather than them being a means of expressing their characters'inner thoughts.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

The Blurb

Emerging bloodied from the battlefield, victorious generals Macbeth and Banquo witness a prophecy of three witches: Macbeth will sit on Scotland’s throne.

A dark seed of ambition has been planted, and with King Duncan feasting under their roof, Macbeth and his wife draw their daggers and take fate into their own hands. A king is murdered, a crown seized and a vicious spiral of betrayal and bloody violence begins.

Shakespeare’s shortest and most brutal tragedy of superstition and vaulting ambition is a wild ride from power and glory to greed and treachery. In a ruthless struggle to secure control of a nation, Scotland becomes a battleground where trust, loyalty and truth are only the first victims.