“What’s happening?” said a young boy standing in the groundlings area to his mother, who had hurriedly clapped her hands over his eyes for the murder of Macduff’s family.
Sensibly, perhaps, Mum didn’t elaborate, and nor will I. Lady Macduff’s death was one of the more gruesome I’ve seen on a stage. Pop-Up Globe’s Macbeth is nothing if not bloody.
That aside, this well-populated, traditionally garbed staging directed by the UK’s Tom Mallaburn offers a straightforward, largely faithful experience of Shakespeare’s tightly-framed supernatural thriller.
Stephen Lovatt is commanding in the title role: gruff and believably martial in the earlier scenes, then convincingly unhinged as the dead pile up around him.
His hallucinating of the dagger had many in the pit turning their heads to look for it. A lovely moment.
Amanda Billing’s reading of Lady Macbeth is the jolliest I’ve seen but she has some strong moments late in her journey.
Jason Will’s Banquo is a regular nice-guy and comes to a spectacularly grisly end (which left some in the pit looking like accident victims). Matu Ngaropo brings tormented passion to the role of Macduff.
Greg Johnson’s appearance as the drunken Porter is made memorable by his carefree deployment of a large prosthetic penis, which hoses the stage with fake urine throughout his speech. Those in the standing room area will find his offer of a hug entirely resistible.
Battle scenes use the full company and are gratifyingly athletic. The choreographed antics of the witches (Romy Hooper, Julia Guthrie and Mia Landgren) are difficult to take at all seriously, however. The apparitions, which rise from a self-stirring cauldron, aren’t what you’d call spooky.
The live soundscape of skirling bagpipes, rattling thunder sheets and what sound like bowling balls being rolled around the attic is, however. Elizabethan tech still works.
Those who have seen the play many times might find it lacking novelty (though seeing Macbeth in broad daylight was novel enough for me) and sophistication, but people new to the play – and the Globe has clearly attracted large numbers of non-regular theatregoers – will find most of their expectations met.