Macbeth, Tramway Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
National Theatre of Scotland
John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg (directors), Rob Jones (assistant director), Lucy Mason (producer), Callum Smith (production assistant), Merle Hensel (set design), Natasha Chivers (lighting design), Fergus O’Hare (sound design), Ros Steen (voice), Christine Devaney (movement director), Ian William Galloway (video design), Salvador Bettencourt Avila (video production engineer), Anne Henderson (casting director), Manuel Harlan and Albert Watson (photographers), Max Richter (music)
Alan Cumming, Ali Craig and Myra McFadyen
Running time

The pale corporation - green tiles of the cold stark set of a psychiatric ward already made for a chilling atmosphere as the audience filled Glasgow’s Tramway theatre at the first night of this unique interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth from directors John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg and Scotland’s own transatlantic star, Alan Cumming.

Cumming arrives bloodied and barefoot as he acquiesces to his admission to mental health care.  You can almost hear his ‘Oh Mammy Daddy!’ as he is silently injected by the medical staff (Ali Craig and Myra McFadyen). His poignant call to them as they leave him alone, “When shall we three meet again?” takes us straight into this patient’s schizoid world.

With little more than a change of accent to show each character (Duncan is an affected anglified Scot, but Macbeth just verges on becoming a parody of Para Handy), Cumming unsexes himself and goes through the gamut of Shakespeare’s characters with an open and naked vulnerability over the 100 or so minutes of this wrenching and passionate performance.

The three screens that hover over the stage, and split to multiples of three over the piece, are like a modern presence of the three witches.  They fizz dangerously to life as their images tip in to film noir echoing the drama on stage.

The depiction of Banquo’s ghost was singularly creepy both physically on stage and technically on screen. For some reason, this character has not been directly credited so apologies for no specific mention here.

The piece is set to the haunting music of Max Richter and the towering shadows that are part of Natasha Chivers’ lighting design add to the gripping atmosphere.

The idea of a one-man performance of Macbeth originally came from joint director Andrew Goldberg and chimed with Cumming’s passion for the play and his notion to do a gender swapping version of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.  The result is a stellar, highly physical and arresting performance that is a combination of comic gestures and balletic grace; the manifestation of angst and a perfectly captured macho ‘come ahead’ gesture; the human embodiment of the madness that is greed, bloody murder, sorcery and double dealings of those with crowns on their heads but no peace in their hearts.

The seemingly impossible has been made possible in this landmark Scottish production.

Show times

13-30 June 2012 at Tramway, Glasgow

5-14 July 2012 at Lincoln Center Festival, New York City


Dates and Times: Wednesday 13th June – Saturday 30th June, 2012

Evenings: Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm
Matinees: Sundays, 4pm & Saturday 23rd June, 2.30pm
Previews: Wednesday 13th June and Thursday 14th June


Ticket Prices: Previews: £10 flat rate (no concessions)
All other performances:  £20 & £15 (concessions available)

FRESH FACED OFFER: £10 tickets are available for 14-20 year olds who are attending the FRESH FACED evening. 


Dates and Times: Thursday 5th July - Saturday 14th July, 2012
Press Performance: Saturday 7th July

Venue: Lincoln Center Festival, New York City

Tickets & further info: