Macbeth (2007): Royal Shakespeare Company, Swan Theatre

PrMacbeth (

Location: Swan Theatre
Live Performance

This production ran from 11 April - 21 July 2007.

"In deference to the setting, the men wear kilts under their flapping leathers. And mostly their accents are Celtic - sometimes straying over the Irish sea into the north of Ireland. But it's just one of the many bemusing features of Morrison's production that a handful of the parts, including the witches are played as Africans and Caribbeans. Perhaps most incomprehensible is Malcolm, the son of David Troughton's avowedly white Scottish king. He is a Ugandan-sounding rival for Idi Amin, and what Morrison is trying to say with such casting is anyone's guess. The rest of Morrison's production, however, is nothing if not muscular, notably the noisy carnage that opens the play and sets the story up as the witches' revenge on the murderous Macbeth. This makes the appearance of Banquo's ghost as a zombie puppet-corpse operated by the so-called weird sisters all the more powerful. But there are moments of absolute farce too, as when Macbeth returns to the witches in a desperate bid to secure the royal succession of his children."  ~ Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail, 18 April 2007, in Theatre Record 2007, Issue 8

"Sometimes in the theatre, the heart sinks during the opening minutes, and you know with horrible certainty that you are in for a bum evening. So it proves here...Morrison begins with a scene undreamt of by Shakespeare, in which Macbeth startles a group of refugees and slays them in a sadistic killing spree that might make Quentin Tarantino feel nauseous. He snogs one woman before snapping her neck, then picks up a baby, briefly cuddles and coos at it before breathing so hard into its mouth that its lungs burst. At the end of the scene, however, when Macbeth has made his exit, three slaughtered women rise from the dead, and we realise these suffering mothers have been transformed into voodoo-practising weird sisters....There are a few striking moments, most notably a spectacularly staged and genuinely scary banquet scene with Banquo's ghost. But eventually you feel merely bludgeoned by the play's ghoulish parade of graphic horrors and bored to death by the tiresome witches with their sinister voodoo dolls, Caribbean accents and kinky sex games, who seem to infiltrate almost every scene."  ~ Charles Spencer, 'How to massacre a tragedy', Daily Telegraph, 19 April 2007

"'This production,' we are warned, 'contains graphic scenes of a violent and sexual nature.' What Connall Morrison's excessive RSC production...does not contain much of, however, is ironic subtlety or inward reflectiveness. Everything in Morrison's version is over-explicit....Even the idea that the witches are not simply satanic decoration but ubiquitous embodiments of fate is so underscored as to relieve Macbeth of much of his moral responsibility. They replace the dagger of Macbeth's imagination with literal ones. They turn up at the Macbeths' banquet and manipulate the blood-stained Banquo as if he were a ventriloquist's doll."  ~ Michael Billington, "Ranting, roaring and gore robs Macbeth of irony", Guardian, 19 April 2007

"For a production of such imagination and power, Conall Morrison's Macbeth has its oddities and flaws. Why has Scotland been relocated in what, judging by the blend of accents and clothes, is the Donegal area of a Jamaica where antique thanes mix with lackeys from a topically Islamic Morocco?...Yet Morrison's revival grew and grew on me, largely because of the sheer commitment of everyone from David Troughton's fierce Duncan to Brian Doherty's movingly distraught Macduff to the principals....Incidentally, Banquo's ghost is led onstage and manipulated as a puppet by witches who are pretty much omnipresent. They substitute as servants, messengers, assistant assassins and even the Porter. They hurl Macbeth's spectral dagger into the floorboards and collapse in a sort of exhausted relief at his death. And, no, this isn't mere revenge. By the end you're convinced tha these scraggy, hissing women, the events we've seen and Macbeth himself are what they should be: evil."  ~ Benedict Nightingale, The Times, 19 April 2007

"Sarah Malin, Mojisola Adebayo and Frances Ashman have excellent stage presence as the three witches, carefully weaving on and off stage, observing and manipulating the action, and their part in 'operating' the ghost of Banquo is excellently executed."  ~ Stratford-upon-Avon Herald, 19 April 2007

"Connall Morrison's vulgar, distorted production of Macbeth reduces this tragedy of ambition to a Calvinist melodrama, possessed by witches, evil and dead babies....Morrison's shrieking witches - two black, one white - are forces of evil, predestined wreckers of Macbeth's life. They virtually take up residence in the castle, one flinging down the dagger that looms before hallucinating monarch. All three secretly preside over the banquet, bursting from under the table to bring Jude Akuwudike's ghostly Banquo into view. One hangs ridiculously in the air. In the apparition scene they subject Macbeth to a mock hanging before showing him a succession of future kings, all doll-like marionettes - as if again to mock the Macbeths' childlessness."  ~ Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard, 18 April 2007, in Theatre Record 2007, Issue 8

"Several of Shakespeare's plays normally last this long, but not Macbeth, one of his shortest texts. This length is also partly due to actors overplaying accents. Since several of Morrison's major players are Irish, he asks most of the others to attempt similar speech, with results at best variable (I cannot imagine the First Murderer was meant to be Welsh); the non-Caucasian performers go strongly African or Caribbean instead, though in at least one case a black actor seems to settle on a highland Scots lilt. 'Prophesyings with accents terrible', indeed. By contrast, Morrison's conception of the witches works wonderfully. Appearing first as the reanimated corpses of Macbeth's victims in the opening battle, they are seen mourning their lost infants and are consequently motivated by revenge; one, as the mysterious Third Murderer, even whispers 'Fly!' to young Fleance, explaining his escape from the deadly fate of his father Banquo. At every stage, one or more of the weird sisters is orchestrating matters: manipulating dead Banquo at the feast, playing the drunken porter, drawing the doctor's attention to Lady Macbeth's guilty somnambulism."  ~ Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times, 20 April 2007

Pe People involved in this production