Theatre of war re-imagined for the 21st century
This article is from 2012.
The first we hear of Major Macbeth, he’s radio-ing in from his Scotland-52 helicopter saying he’s going to undertake a dangerous raid on Arab insurgents in an unnamed Middle Eastern country in defiance of his commander. The attack is successful, so we skip straight to the military honours and brush under the carpet his gratuitous decapitation of one of the enemy. As the mysterious figure in the burqa foretold, he is promoted to the post of commander of Sector Two – AKA Cawdor. The rot is setting in.
This, in other words, is Macbeth re-imagined for the 21st century. It’s not one for the traditionalists, but although the explosive staging by Grzegorz Jarzyna for TR Warszawa has little reverence for the finer points of Shakespeare’s verse, it has a deep sense of the play’s scepticism about a social order built on military conquest. The production pre-dates the current crisis in Syria, but these Macbeths, played by Cezary Kosinski and Aleksandra Konieczna, could be Bashar and Ashma Assad, the smiling figure-heads of a murderous regime. Or are they the corrupt representatives of a colonial invader, allowing power to go to their heads, and their heads to turn into a neurotic mess?
The re-working makes tremendous sense in this context – right down to the drunken soldier in a spangly bra trying to key in the right security code as a modern-day porter. But even if you can’t buy into the switch from 16th-century Scotland to modern-day war zone, you can only be awestruck by Jarzyna’s staging.
Not only does it look good on a massive set by Stephanie Nelson and Agnieszka Zawadowska, showing four playing areas at once, but it sounds awesome, as it drives home the violent roar of today’s weaponry. Throw in some astonishing technical effects and you have a production with tremendous drive, energy and purpose.
Royal Highland Centre, 473 2000, until 18 Aug, 7.30pm, £30-£35.