All you need to know about RSC’s Macbeth

The performance forms part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's season at the Barbican.

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Shakespeare’s dark tragedy returns to the London stage at the Barbican as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s season at the venue.

What is the RSC season at the Barbican about?

The Royal Shakespeare company returns to the Barbican for a full season, including live screenings in the cinema, three shows in the theatre and much more.

The season of three plays has kicked off with Macbeth, which sees the eponymous hero returning home from battle and set out on a dangerous path after meeting three witches, whose disturbing prophecies drive him to murder.

Polly Findlay’s contemporary production of this dark tragedy of power and revenge marks her return to the Barbican following her stunning staging of The Alchemist in 2016.

Who stars in Macbeth?

The award-winning actor Christopher Eccleston makes his RSC debut in the title role. Niamh Cusack returns to the RSC as Lady Macbeth, while Edward Bennett stars as Macduff.

What can audiences expect from Macbeth?

At the Barbican, the Royal Shakespeare Company has produced another successful production of Macbeth, this time spearheaded by Christopher Eccelston and Niamh Cusack in the leads roles.

Eccleston and Cusack set the tone of the play – managing to get the best out of their lines and grasping attention without over-indulging on stage. Eccleston is commanding and comfortable; while Cusack appears effervescent yet secretive, the two complimenting each other and providing some of the best scenes when on stage together.

Touches of modern horror recur throughout the performance, with eerie school girls in place of the more traditional witches, and a harrowing timer on stage which counts down towards the inevitability of their prophecy. This gives the production a menacing and contemporary edge without going too far from the original text, opening Shakespeare once more to a new audience.

Adding to this is a creepily omniscient and ever-present porter, bringing a sense of otherworldliness and inescapability that makes the play so interesting whilst allowing the traditional gallows humour all the easier to digest.

As with every Shakespeare, play words are the focus, and quotes are selected and projected on an upstage screen to dramatize key moments when necessary providing familiarity to this retelling. A version that is suitable for studied Macbethians or first time viewers a like.

What are the critics saying?

★★★★ – The Stage

★★★★ – Evening Standard

★★★ – The Guardian

What else do I need to know?

Macbeth runs until 18 January 2019 as part of the RSC’s season at the Barbican. Other plays in the season are Romeo and Juliet and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

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