Macbeth

I finally got to see Alan Cumming in his not-quite one-man interpretation of Macbeth, arguably one of Shakespeare's greatest works.

The bloody and gruesome tale of a vainglorious antihero is told with spectacular power by Cumming, with an assist from Jenny Sterlin and Brendan Titley, in less flashy but no less important roles. Cumming embodies about 15 Shakespearean characters as he portrays one character who is in a mental institution. Part of his therapy is to enact Macbeth's story. Subtly, unobtrusively but powerfully, this production layers another story on to Shakespeare's, mining new depth in the classic story of a man overcome by his need for position and confirmation of manhood.

I don't want to give anything away so I won't say much more about the construct of the show, directed by John Tiffany (Once) and Andrew Goldberg, with scenic design by Merle Hensel, lighting design by Natasha Chivers, sound design by Fergus O'Hare, video design (an integral part of the storytelling) by Ian William Galloway and music (effectively eerie) by Max Richter. Having finished reading the "source material" just days before seeing the show, I did not have any trouble following along. For those concerned that they might, never fear: there is a handy character guide and synopsis in the Playbill.

I was most struck by the physicality brought to Lady Macbeth and her scenes with her lord. While reading the play, it's easy to see how Lady and Lord Macbeth are opposing forces of one creature and in this production, that is highlighted. Macbeth is known for his ambivalence, and Cumming brings to light the fascinating dichotomy of the two characters, who just might represent parts of one whole. Cumming's performance and Tiffany and Goldberg's direction also make express a psycho-sexual aspect to their relationship and what drives each of them to madness that offers an illuminating look into man's psyche.

Cumming's Macbeth has literally traveled the world, to much acclaim at each stop, and it's easy to see why. At a little over 90 minutes, this interpretation—told only with Shakespeare's own words—narrows in on the meaty, juiciest bits of the Scottish play and Cumming gives a true tour de force performance that will no doubt be talked about for years to come.


Macbeth continues its acclaimed run through July 14. Learn more and purchase tickets at macbethonbroadway.com.

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