Macbeth (2013): Manchester International Festival, St. Peter's Church, Manchester
PRINCIPAL CAST: Kenneth Branagh (Macbeth); Ray Fearon (Macduff); Alex Kingston (Lady Macbeth).
This production was a major event at the Manchester International Festival and ran from 5 - 31 July 2013, subsequently transferring to New York. It was performed at the Park Avenue Armory from 31 May - 22 June 2014 with largely the same cast. Ray Fearon appeared in the production during its Manchester run only.
"As we finally take our seats in a deconsecrated church on either side of an earth-filled nave, my first thought is: there will be mud. Kenneth Branagh has a thing for mud....Here, as kilted warriors go hammer and tongs in a vicious opening battle, sparks fly from clashing steel and rain descends from the roof turning the floor into a churning bog. The cast have to act on this squashy boot-sucking surface for the rest of the play....Ray Fearon is a magnificent Macduff, especially in his reaction to his family's slaughter when his spine-chilling delivery of 'he-has-no-children' leaves us in no doubt how he would wreak revenge." ~ Neil Norman, Daily Express, 12 July 2013, in Theatre Record 2013, Issue 14
"It's a traditional Macbeth with draggled plaids and broadswords, smoke and sacrilege and filth. Kenneth Branagh, returning to the Shakespearean stage after an 11-year break as star and co-director (with Rob Ashford) sets his festival centrepiece in a deconsecrated brick church, the altar end aflame with a hundred candles and the other a wooden wall breaking into arches as ragged witches confront this holy peace. Between these extremes, in a nave flanked by towering benches, rage violent battles to begin and end the play....Christopher Oram's design makes the most of the church's supernatural gloom: the witches call up a wall of flame through which dead Banquo strides and piles of dead men who writhe like a single monster beneath a black sheet....There are some oddities, the chief of which is that often Branagh, mutteringly naturalistic, seems to be giving a classic screen-friendly rendering while more resonantly 'stage' performances echo off the arches from his peerlessly intense Lady (Alex Kingston, thrilling) and from noble Ray Fearon as Macduff..." ~ Libby Purves, The Times, 6 July 2013, in Theatre Record 2013, Issue 14
"The audience sits in long stalls, and the actors make use of the apse, balcony and the nave, whose floor is piled with thick mud (it even rains during one visceral battle scene). Neil Austin's lighting and Christopher Shutt's sound design serve mostly as intensifiers, making the violins and bagpipes of the Globe's production sound folksy in comparison....In the gloom and sudden spotlight, everything is sinister, double-edged. The weird sisters (Charlie Cameron, Laura Elsworth, Anjana Vasan) are far weirder than in the Globe production. The convulse and leer, then rant and ramble like children who have not yet mastered perfect speech. Yet they alone seem safe in the knowledge of their power." ~ Griselda Murray-Brown, Financial Times, 9 July 2013, in Theatre Record 2013, Issue 14
"There is, alongside some candid performing (particularly from Ray Fearon), a taint of visible Acting." ~ Susannah Clapp, Observer, 14 July 2013, in Theatre Record 2013, Issue 14
"And the actors inhabit their characters with a raw, crackling intensity. They have nowhere to hide and neither do we....Branagh has a haunting and daunting swagger as Macbeth and has fierce support among the fully-bearded male throng that includes such superb actors as Ray Fearon as Macduff..." ~ Mark Shenton, Sunday Express, 14 July 2013, in Theatre Record 2013, Issue 14