Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 11 Oct
On the surface, Lucy Pitman-Wallace’s Macbeth is set up brilliantly. Set in medieval Scotland – as opposed to modern gun-slinging versions – we see a wild, desolate land; large wooden beams rising into the air, creating a fortress around characters and swirling eerie smoke into the audience.
But there’s a hollowness about its execution that is hard to overlook. The production makes few concessions to anyone not familiar with Shakespeare’s plot – its poetic lines are often rushed or not given the weight they deserve. The three witches – who toil and trouble into Macbeth’s psyche as he and Lady Macbeth murder anyone between them and the throne – are shrouded in mystery, but lack sinister energy. While Liam Brennan and Allison McKenzie excel as Macbeth and his ambitious wife, a lacklustre atmosphere with arbitrary background music cruelly eradicates any natural chemistry between them.
That said, there are electric moments: Macbeth seeing Banquo’s ghost, when a fierce chill in the air brings to life his deep-seated fears, or the sleepwalking, guilt-wracked Lady Macbeth – a stark reminder of the heart wrenching power the play still possesses.
As we reach Lady Macbeth’s death however, resignation sets in, as Macbeth also accepts his fate. We’re left with a somewhat limp incarnation of the play, bereft of the high tension that should make it so engrossing, and a disappointing start to the Lyceum’s new season.