British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database
Macbeth (1984): Young Vic Theatre
PRINCIPAL CAST: Jeffery Kissoon (Macduff); Margot Leicester (Lady Macbeth); Clive Russell (Duncan); Malcolm Tierney (Macbeth); T-Bone Wilson (Banquo).
This production ran from 11 October - 17 November 1984.
"The one interesting feature of the production is the multiracial casting (now increasingly common at the Royal Exchange and Stratford-on-Avon) which yields the performance of the evening in Jeffery Kissoon's Macduff. It is not the most thankful of roles but Mr. Kissoon, cool, lethal and watchful, establishes Macduff as a palpable threat to the hero with his level-toned, 'Wherefore did you so?' after the killing of the grooms. The scene in England, often an awkward hurdle, acquires genuine tension thanks to the unarticulated fury with which he responds to the news of his family's slaughter, thrusting his hands deep into his denim pockets. And at the last he crouches behind Macbeth, on Jessica Bowles's dullish, Vorticist backcloth, like a panther waiting to leap on its prey. There are few other signs, however, that the lines have passed through the actors' imagination....The military uniforms render many of the minor characters indistinguishable (though T-Bone Wilson is a creditable Banquo). And there is no sense of visual flair. I know there's husbandry at the Young Vic as well as in Heaven, but surely the scene in the Witches' cavern could offer something more in the way of visions than a trio of old crones staring intently at a piece of rope on the floor. This is potentially the most exciting of all Shakespeare's plays. What Mr. Thacker has given us is a story of a minor military coup taking place in a desolate no-man's land." ~ Michael Billington, The Guardian, 20 October 1984, in London Theatre Record (8 - 21 October), Volume IV, Issue 21
"The Young Vic's new production of Macbeth is a masterpiece of racial integration and teamwork and a delight to the Race Relations Board. Like so many things produced by reasonable fairminded folk it is a very confusing mish-mash. Of the two sons of Duncan, King of Scotland, one (Malcolm played by Brian Bovell) is black and the other (Donalbain, played by Vivian Munn) is white. Sociologically it is only right that the black one eventually becomes king himself. Banquo is played by a Guyanese actor called T-Bone Wilson. Even allowing for the effort of imagination needed to make T-Bone a Scotsman, it is a little muddling when he re-appears not just as Banquo's ghost but, without any attempt at disguise, also as Seyton, a minor character who announces the death of the Queen towards the end of the play. You may be well advised to examine some of the sketches of the production which have been displayed in the bar as a guide to who's who. Mercifully the person who is addressed by Macbeth as 'a cream-faced loon' is actually a white man. Part of the problem lies with the uniformity of the costumes. The characters appear in combat jackets or gold-braided military uniforms throughout, leaving little scope for individuality. There are no props except for a table and a throne. The backdrop is a kind of dappled grey tarpaulin. The witches' cauldron is conveyed by a circle of handkerchiefs. Partly because of the lack of visual diversion, the cast rattle through the text at commendable speed. It is, no doubt, a brave attempt to let the characters speak for themselves without the usual trappings and delays. Yet ironically the only characters who manage to make any impact are Macbeth himself...and Lady Macbeth." ~ James Hughes-Onslow, Evening Standard, 23 October 1984, in London Theatre Record (8 - 21 October), Volume IV, Issue 21
"In recent years we've been treated to a black magic Macbeth (Marowitz), and a stormtrooper's Macbeth (Glasgow Citizens). Now the innovative artistic director of the Young Vic, David Thacker, offers his paramilitary version in which the cast, composed equally of black and white actors, alternate khaki camouflage and full dress uniform for the witches and banquet scenes. The setting is a bleak, contemporary Scotland, ruled by an efficient militia, where the witches are eccentric tramp-like hags who appear to have scoured dustbins and gutters for their evil potions. Malcolm Tierney's 'noble Thane' is a Machiavellian officer, with a keen eye for the main chance...By comparison T-Bone Wilson's Banquo and Jeffrey Kissoon's Macduff are fine, sensitive warriors; the latter gives a particularly moving portrayal of Macbeth's adversary." Ann McFerran, Time Out, 25 October 1984, in London Theatre Record (8 - 21 October), Volume IV, Issue 21
"Under David Thacker's direction, five major roles have been cast with black actors, but few in the show - black or white - bring much conviction to their verse." ~ Matt Wolf, City Limits, 26 October 1984, in London Theatre Record (8 - 21 October), Volume IV, Issue 21
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