Shakespeare’s much performed, much studied and much loved “Scottish Play”, Macbeth, is the third in this year’s “Vaulting Ambition” season of Bard in the Botanics.

The play has been cut to ribbons to make it performable by such a small cast, but the performers give valiant efforts.

Some very interesting artistic decisions have been made for this production, and they have mixed success. The first is to set the entire play in a deserted nursery, thematically the one that originally housed the Macbeths’ child before it died. This idea works extremely well: Gillian Argo’s set design is highly effective, using drab colours and the natural creepiness of dolls to give an atmosphere of a slightly unworldly despair. It also, of course, places the entire play in the context of the Macbeths’ bereavement, and makes Lady Macbeth much more of a focus. In a play that is so often performed, an interpretation like this puts a rarely-seen and much appreciated slant on the whole thing.

Less successful is the decision to combine all three witches into one character and have them (along with various other characters they couldn’t cut) played by Robert Elkin. As anyone who has seen Elkin's Viola this season will attest, he is an excellent actor, but even he struggles to be more than generically scary under the layers of face paint he is wearing. Having him play all three witches (aside from taking three women’s roles and giving them all to a man) also renders the opening scene almost incomprehensible. A friend I saw the show with, who had never seen Macbeth before, hadn't the faintest idea what was going on for the first ten minutes. The concept here is that Elkin, in full face paint, plays all the bit parts, giving the impression of the witch stalking through the main characters’ lives unseen. It’s a clever idea, but in practice it is just confusing when he is obliged to deliver a very long scene in character as the old king’s son, Malcolm, while dressed as a witch.

The play has been cut to ribbons to make it performable by such a small cast, but the performers give valiant efforts. Emilie Patry is a strong Lady Macbeth, using the nursery-setting to bring an unexpected pathos to her role. Alan J Mirren also stands out as the old King, and later as Macduff, giving a good, solid performance as an honourable man. Kirk Bage's Macbeth leaves something to be desired: it has all the warrior strength of the character but none of the warmth that humanises him into something more three dimensional. The most famous speech in the play, spoken by Macbeth after his wife dies, is particularly disappointing in this respect.

In all, this is an interesting production that makes some bold decisions to compensate for tight restrictions. It has some valuable things to say about the play, but isn't particularly successful as a production.

Reviews by Grace Knight

Kings theatre

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella

King's Theatre

Legally Blonde

King's Theatre

The Sound of Music

Theatre Royal Glasgow

The Crucible

Theatre Royal Glasgow

Jane Eyre

Theatre Royal Glasgow

Little Shop of Horrors


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

A prophesy is made – Macbeth shall be king – but the only way to achieve the crown is murder. Supported and encouraged by his wife, the deed is done but “blood will have blood” and soon their actions return to haunt them both.

Having ripped away the veneer of respectability and plunged into evil, this once glamorous couple descend in to a hell of their own making, their relationship and their sanity tested to breaking point in this tense, dramatic thriller.

A cast of five actors bring to life an electrifying new version of one of Shakespeare’s most popular and enduring plays.

Most Popular See More

Heathers The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £29.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets