Review Round Up: The Tragedy of Macbeth, Almeida Theatre

We round up the reviews for Yael Farber’s new production now playing at the Almeida Theatre.

(c)Marc Brenner

The Stage: **** “Intense, atmospheric production featuring magnetic performances from James McArdle and Saoirse Ronan.”

The Guardian: **** “The psychological terror is slow to rear and does not always lie in the usual places in Yaël Farber’s take on Shakespeare’s tragedy of power, guilt and vaulting ambition. When it comes, it is brute, unrestrained and blood-curdling.”

Evening Standard: **** “Sometimes you wish Farber would dial back the pressure a bit, but overall her style fits this play beautifully and makes us see it afresh. She draws fine performances from the whole cast and above all she’s brought the brilliant Ronan – who’d previously only done one play, The Crucible, on Broadway – to the London stage. Bravo.”

The Independent: ***** “It’s a rare skill to make Shakespeare’s beautiful but weighty words easy to understand, but Ronan manages it. Speaking with her own Irish accent, she adds modern inflections to famous lines and breathes new life into them.”

The Arts Desk: *** “Luckily, I didn’t have to brave thunder, lightning or indeed rain to see Oscar-nominated screen star Saoirse Ronan make her UK stage debut, opposite James McArdle, in this production of my favourite Scottish tragedy, directed by the equally award-laden Yaël Farber. But then the Almeida theatre, led by Rupert Goold, is a magnet for stars.”

Time Out: **** “this is a bold and powerful version of Shakespeare’s play that feels fully realised and justified in its choices. It is absolutely not a gaudy star vehicle, but it uses its star to the fullest extent while trusting that it’s McArdle who will truly electrify audiences. Still just 27, this is a fine, confident London stage debut for Saoirse Ronan. Still just 27, she’s not put a foot wrong in her screen career – and now that goes for stage.”

The Telegraph: **** “Opposite James McArdle in the title role, the American-Irish film star brings her special brand of intensity to Yael Farber’s new production.”

Variety: “The self-consciousness of the production’s steady determination to over-illustrate every moment will bring some audiences to their feet. But the while the overall effect is defiantly theatrical, it’s distinctly less than dramatic.”

iNews: **** “McArdle, one of the very finest actors of his generation, gives a blazingly charismatic account of the honest soldier turned devilish despot, standing isolated and maddened with a machine gun as Birnam Forest edges towards Dunsinane in Act Five.”

The Upcoming: **** “Ronan is a lively Lady Macbeth who brings out the frivolousness of the character, rather than her perfidy, while McArdle is an unassuming Macbeth whose actions seem to catch him by surprise. Together, they create a new and different dynamic that seems indeed to belong to a modern society. They are eager for excitement but approach life rather superficially, until the tragic consequences of their actions catch up with them.”

Broadway World: *** “Not all of director Yaël Farber’s decisions are as inexplicable. She conjures a lovely performance from William Gaunt as the ageing Duncan, gleefully saluting Macbeth’s putting down of the rebellion while foolishly setting up his own son (a swiftly scarpering Malcolm) as a vulnerable obstacle in Macbeth’s path to the throne. Akiya Henry, who also sings hauntingly, is deeply affecting as Lady Macduff, slaughtered (along with her children) as Lady Macbeth looks on in horror at what she has unleashed.”

London ***** “Director Yaël Farber’s pulsating and achingly current take on Shakespeare’s tragedy makes the familiar tale of the conflicted, power-grabbing thane feel eerily fresh.”

WhatsOnStage: ***** “Director Yaël Farber has taken bold decisions and been brilliantly brave in solving both challenges. Her liberties with the text may not please purists, but she has made Macbeth into an utterly engrossing and convincing piece of theatre, one which showcases the talents of her Rolls Royce cast, allowing Ronan to use her almost-literally iridescent charisma and McArdle to create a career-defining Shakespearean performance.”

Theatre “Saioirse Ronan is a Lady Macbeth to remember for years:  a steely fragile pillar of ambition who crumbles before our eyes and haunts the whole play.”

The Tragedy of Macbeth continues to play at the Almeida Theatre until the 27th November. It will also be live streamed from the 27th to the 30th October.

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