Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Independent - Heads up: Macbeth

Out damn Scot! Alan Cumming makes a mad Macbeth

What are we talking about? A staging of Shakespeare's Macbeth by National Theatre of Scotland, with a twist... It's set in a psychiatric unit, full of CCTV cameras, where a patient relives the story of Macbeth's reign.

Elevator pitch Is this a CCTV camera I see before me? Macbeth gets the modern madness treatment.

Prime movers It's directed by John Tiffany, the man behind NTS's huge hit Black Watch, with Andy Goldberg (best known for hip-hop Shakespeare The Bomb-itty of Errors).

The stars Alan Cumming, who is, as the press release puts it, a "Hollywood actor and award-winning Scot" (though presumably the awards were for acting, not Scottishness).

The early buzz It transfers to New York, and American bloggers are excited: The New York Times arts blog said Cumming "will perform every single role in the Shakespeare tragedy, including the regicidal schemer of its title and his devious, spot-obsessed wife (though we're especially intrigued to see what he does with the three witches)". Perez Hilton wrote, "Words like 'ambitious' come to mind! We're excited/fascinated to report that Alan Cumming is set to star in an upcoming one-man version of Macbeth... Sweet!" while The Huffington Post imagined Cumming "looking in his bathroom mirror saying, 'You just beat everyone at Macbeth so hard,' while he palms Shakespeare's original manuscript with one ungloved hand and spoons veggie haggis into his sneering mouth with the other..."

Insider knowledge "The Scottish Play" is the first Shakespeare the NTS has ever staged, and casting Cumming is doubly neat: he made his own stage debut with Macbeth in 1993, playing Malcolm at Glasgow's Tron theatre.

It's great that ... while not technically a one-man play as originally hyped, Cumming does speak all the lines: we can't think of anyone better to gender-bend between Macbeth, his lady wife, and the witches.

It's a shame that ... following a luke-warm reception for the "it's all in his mind" Hamlet set in a psychiatric institution/the Young Vic last year, the concept may struggle for fresh-eyed critical sympathy here.

Hit potential Macbeth often can absorb high concepts, and Cumming will prove a draw. Americans seem keen, so may be a hit in New York.

The details Macbeth is at Tramway, Glasgow, 13 - 30 June (


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