Macbeth (1986): Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

PrMacbeth (

Live Performance

PRINCIPAL CAST: Sinead Cusack (Lady Macbeth); Peter Guinness (Macduff); Jonathan Pryce (Macbeth); Hugh Quarshie (Banquo).

"The plain-seeming stage-set is like a trap devised by cruel scientists experimenting with rats. Narrow stairs emerge from a blank wall, so that Lady Macbeth can run up and down them in her troubled sleep. Narrow vertical slots appear, revealing candles and a cross at the holy court of King Edward - treated no more reverently than the witches' mumbo-jumbo. Green flags poke through secret holes in the wall to pen the cornered Macbeth as he cries: 'They have tied me to a stake: I cannot fly...' When he is dead and done, his body flips toward the audience on a narrow strip of flooring, propelled by a scornful kick from King Malcolm....Nicholas Woodeson heads the forces of righteousness as Malcolm, the lawful king - a small, cautious man who has to be physically bullied into his duty by the impressively formidable Macduff, thug-faced Peter Guinness, the only man to evoke human sympathy in this grim production. But the black actors who play Banquo and his son, Seyton, the doctor and the bloody sargeant do offer vigour and conviction, as if they really cared about good and evil - or, at any rate, who is going to win the struggle. Husky young Sinead Cusack is wholly credible as Lady Macbeth, like an Irish terrorist's lusty moll..." ~ D. A. N. Jones, "Macbeth the fool", Sunday Telegraph, 16 November 1986

"You have to go back to 1955 to find a totally satisfying production of Macbeth on the main stage at Stratford; and even that one owed more to the genius of Olivier than to the quality of the direction. But Adrian Noble's new version breaks the spell. It works by treating the play as an intimate, family drama with repercussions that spread through the kingdom, by conjuring up a tangible sense of evil and (like Trevor Nunn's 1976 studio version) by dispensing with an interval so that Macbeth's temporal rise and spiritual descent are one continuous process."  ~ Michael Billington, "Murder in the family", The Guardian, 13 November 1986

"Otherwise, this is not, to begin with, a doom-laden world. Macbeth's relations with Banquo (Hugh Quarshie, a rugged but deeply sensitive performance) are open and relaxed, even humorous, with an undercurrent of political wariness."  ~ John Peter, "Acting at high altitude", Sunday Times, 16 November 1986

"Apart from Hugh Quarshie's watchful Banquo, the Scottish nobility are a dour, interchangeable lot" ~ Irving Wardle, "Pryce holds tragic sway", The Times, 13 November 1986

"Macduff (Peter Guinness) impersonates a council workman, with the ineviable earring, about to down tools and say 'Can't be done, mate', and Hugh Quarshie plays Banquo as Harry Belafonte. Mr. Quarshie is an actor of very precise gifts; he has only two expressions: the first is 'menace' and largely consists in wearing black leather (his Tybalt in this season's atrocious Romeo and Juliet); the second is 'decency' and involves smiling for no apparent reason." ~ Eric Griffiths, "Double trouble", The Listener, 20 November 1986

Pe People involved in this production