Review Round Up: Macbeth, Longacre Theatre

We take a look at what critics have been saying about Sam Gold’s production starring Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga.

(c)Joan Marcus

WhatsOnStage: “Gold’s Macbeth is both austere and overdesigned, teeming with half-executed conceits and uneven performances. Actors are left to sink or swim, with those who bring their own strong perspective to the stage faring better than those who don’t. The director cannot be bothered to make them inhabit the same world.”

The Guardian: *** “There is shock – short, sharp – and surprises and some playful, inventive staging, but little that feels truly risky or dangerous. The conflicts are external, not internal. “It feels good,” Thornton teases in that opening speech, “to cast a little spell”. Yet, despite the charms and potions, there’s not so much magic here.”

Variety: “Craig has some strong moments but does not capture the transformation of Macbeth into a power-hungry tyrant. He and Gold make no attempt to draw any parallels between Macbeth and current political leaders — a lost opportunity, especially since, as we are told in the curtain speech, the play was commissioned by a king who had strong thoughts about usurpers and violent leaders. While Craig’s performance is imperfect, it is Negga who is the bigger disappointment. She falls flat, giving a generic performance. Lady Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s best characters, but Negga, far from the center of the play, barely leaves a mark.”

Deadline: “this Macbeth promises lots of stage blood, eerie lighting and fog machines (hand-held and cleverly employed), all enhanced by effectively creepy original music (by Gaelynn Lea) that underscores the witchery, throat-slitting and madness with ominous Psycho strings and thunder drums. Gold makes good on all those promises, at least.”

New York Post: “No amount of analyzing Gold’s pretentious ideas will make this play any more watchable, but the Witches’ “whatever!” attitude might have derived from a prologue he tacked on. (For this director, The Work Is Not Enough.)”

Entertainment Weekly: “This is not a grand Macbeth — the staging is too sparse and self-aware, almost tossed-off (or at least determined to give that impression), for that. But in a tender, tremulously sung coda, the toil and trouble fade, subsumed by willful intimacy: its marquee stars and supporting players alike brought low by tragedy, tangled in a scrum on the floor.” “So, we’ve got a cast strong on personality and technique; stylish, sexy costumes; striking tableaux boldly (and blindingly) lit by Jane Cox; a minimalist tricksy set by Christine Jones (walls literally close in on the villain) that deconstructs most gracefully; and a vague horror-movie vibe (the kitchen witches’ wholesome menace gave me Ari Aster chills). What more could you want? Personally I have no desire for Macbeth set during the Civil War, or in space, or  the Trump Administration. I won’t say I felt completely satisfied (for that, give me a truly kickass Macbeth-Macduff fight). But I was entertained, and heard some great language spoken by legends of my time. And evil, in the end, was defeated. I think.”

The “The oppressive claustrophobia of the play’s first half dissipates, and so does the drama as the bodies pile up. An insert in the Playbill offers a note about this being a minimal production. Gold creates most of his effects through fog machines, carried on stage by the actors, and flashlights, also carried on stage by the actors. But just when you think you’re staring into an empty stage, Gold and his scenic designer Christine Jones surprise us. After the Malcolm/Macduff/Ross misfire, any kind of shock to the production is welcome.”

Hollywood Reporter: “Perhaps we should have taken a hint from the production’s marketing, which prominently features the names of the stars and director while Shakespeare’s is nowhere to be seen. In retrospect, that seems appropriate, since this is far more Sam Gold’s Macbeth than the Bard’s.”

New York “the  007 movie star and Broadway veteran is delivering a performance that, to be most charitable about it, I just don’t get. For much of the first act, he looks and sounds less like a  brave warrior from 11th century Scotland than a physical trainer lounging at home on the Upper West Side. (The few pieces of furniture in Christine Jones’ set could come from Macy’s.) My guess is this is supposed to show how weak-willed the character is initially, one who, despite his ambition, would not become a murderer were not for the goading and manipulation of his far more ruthless wife.   But the character just comes across as bland. Later, he exhibits great moments of intensity, and we see his physical transformation into the manly warrior we were told about from the get-go, in inverse proportion to Lady Macbeth’s collapse. Even then, though, Craig delivers the famous “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy as if he’s trying to make it as unmemorable as possible (just to be different?)”

The Times: **** “The director Sam Gold gives us an irrepressibly imaginative modern-dress production that is constantly pushing the envelope”

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