Theatre critic Mark Fisher on the Shakespeare productions planned for 2012

Theatre critic Mark Fisher casts his eye over the Shakespeare productions planned for 2012

Alan Cumming, David Hayman and more to stage the Bard next year

With Alan Cumming planning to hit our stage in a one-man Macbeth in 2012, and the rest of Scotland preparing to go Shakespeare crazy, theatre critic Mark Fisher says the pressure is on to make the Bard more relevant than ever

In 1964, the Polish critic Jan Kott published Shakespeare, our Contemporary. The book caused a stir for framing a long-dead playwright through the lens of 20th century totalitarianism. Director Peter Brook was delighted to find a commentator who could relate ‘these works to our lives’.

Another man who relates Shakespeare to his own life is Alan Cumming. Speaking after the announcement of his one-man Macbeth, which will be staged by the National Theatre of Scotland in June, the actor said he was born near Birnam, grew up near Glamis and had family from Cawdor. ‘I have this really strong connection to the story,’ he said. ‘The person I will be playing is someone who is obsessed with the story of Macbeth and those characters.’

Cumming’s Macbeth is not the only high-profile Shakespeare coming up. In April, at Glasgow’s Citizens, David Hayman will star in King Lear. Soon after, Jemima Levick will direct The Tempest at Dundee Rep.

There’s a Polish Macbeth and a Russian A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Edinburgh International Festival and one venue manager is contemplating a ‘festival of Polish Macbeths’ on the Edinburgh Fringe. All this, and we’ve still to mention Glasgow’s Bard in the Botanics season.

Beyond Macbeth, the current exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, introduces us to Scottish collectors of Shakespeare all the way back to William Drummond. He was literally Shakespeare’s contemporary, being in his 30s when the playwright died. The glut of productions in 2012 puts more pressure than ever on directors to communicate the urgency that inspired Drummond and obsessed Cumming.

Staging pretty period pieces is no good. If Shakespeare is to remain our contemporary, he must be staged with vigour and purpose. The abundance of productions in 2012 means audiences should accept nothing less.

Beyond Macbeth: Shakespeare in Scottish Collections

An exhibition looking at the Shakespeare collections held by institutions in Scotland, and what the Bard's work means in the Scotland of today. Includes a rare First Folio edition, and a number of Quartos.


Alan Cumming stars in a hotly anticipated new one-man adaptation of Macbeth from the National Theatre of Scotland.

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