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Feb 23 13 6:29 PM
Feb 23 13 6:58 PM
A true talent + wicked sense of humour + charming personality = James McAvoy: Undeniably, a Scottish "legend in the making".
Feb 23 13 8:03 PM
Feb 24 13 8:19 AM
Feb 25 13 5:33 AM
This isn’t the first time James McAvoy has played Macbeth.
In 2005 the Port Glasgow native starred in a visceral modern television
version of Shakespeare’s gory tragedy. His performance was raw and
compelling, and those adjectives are again appropriate as he reprises
the role with fearless, sinewy conviction. McAvoy is brawnier than he
was eight years ago but he remains a performer who is both charismatic
and nimble, with a smile that could dissolve granite.
Jamie Lloyd’s production is set in a run-down future, in which
Scotland is a place of broken windows and foul toilets. Day-to-day life
seems precarious. Soutra Gilmour’s design brings to mind a ruined
factory — a symptom of industrial collapse or even apocalypse. The three
witches wear gas masks, and the murderers commissioned by Macbeth sport
a pig’s head and a Mekon mask — which makes their lines sound
There’s a note of HBO’s Homeland and a touch of the
rugged Russell Crowe film Romper Stomper but the main point of reference
is Mad Max (or, given the Caledonian connection, should that be Mad
McAvoy’s Macbeth never feels regal yet he is a warrior
through and through. From the outset he is steeped in blood; it’s almost
a surprise when we see him scrubbed clean, and the spruceness doesn’t
last for long. A man of action, he appears happiest when barking or
bullying, and soon he is succumbing to paranoid delusions. I’ve seen the
role played with more poetic subtlety but never with more energy.
him, Claire Foy is a wiry, driven Lady Macbeth. The relationship
between them doesn’t always pulse with attraction but Foy is eloquent
and persuasive. They are well supported, a few wonky Scottish accents
notwithstanding. Jamie Ballard is a tearful, vivid Macduff, Forbes
Masson a passionate Banquo, and Hugh Ross a discreetly saintly Duncan.
This is the first of a season of plays for which Lloyd and the
Ambassador Theatre Group have reconfigured the larger of the Trafalgar
The atmosphere is more intimate than before, and also
more versatile — with characters entering and exiting at 16 different
points. It’s a welcome overhaul for this somewhat tricky space, and
Lloyd launches his tenure with a noisy, urgent, populist account of this
perennially watchable play.
Feb 25 13 5:52 AM
By Mark Beech -
Feb 24, 2013 7:00 PM ET
James McAvoy’s Macbeth is brutal,
bloodthirsty, an unhinged despot. I like him a lot.
At the refurbished Trafalgar Studios in London, McAvoy
rises to the challenge of portraying the power-crazed Scot, who
runs Lear close for Shakespeare’s most demented monarch.
McAvoy is known for his role in “The Last King of Scotland”
-- playing a doctor to a very different dictator with some
equally gruesome tortures. This time, as his deeds come back to
haunt him, he soon can’t even say his own name without vomiting
over it. “Mac-bethhh!” he retches. He cowers over a dirty toilet
bowl, which miraculously pops up on stage just before he pukes.
There’s plentiful use of rain, fog and blood sacs for
maximum gore -- be warned, those of sensitive disposition. The
evening ends with Macbeth’s disembodied head being paraded
around and more ketchup than a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western.
While it sounds pretty awful, the gritty, inventive
production by Jamie Lloyd rightly got an ovation on a press
night attended by actors Hugh Bonneville, Jason Flemyng, Rafe
Spall and Anne-Marie Duff, McAvoy’s wife.
We enjoyed some gloriously long, almost Pintereque, pauses
between McAvoy and Claire Foy, as Lady Macbeth. To the
Shakespearean script of her playful taunts (in essence, a real
man would murder without worries, so get over it), they add
wordless touches on the lips, embraces and a sexual tension.
Pretty soon Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking to madness. In one
of the best scenes, the ghost of Banquo (a stony-faced Forbes
Masson) prowls around and wrecks their cozy dinner party.
The three witches inexplicably put on various gas helmets
and pigs heads. It also allows for a doubling of roles, though
their words are less distinct through the masks and the Scottish
accents could come with subtitles at times.
It’s also not clear why even the princes and nobles are
wearing dirty anoraks, ripped jeans and torn sweaters. Perhaps
it’s all a sign of corruption and apocalypse. They look more
like the people sleeping at Charing Cross, across the road from
the theater, rather than extras from London Fashion Week.
The royal palace is equally rundown on Southa Gilmour’s
huge set. It needs a coat of paint, repairs to broken windows
and has flickering lights that buzz and crackle to signpost
meaningful quotes. There are plenty of them. “What’s done is
done,” “out damned spot,” “brief candle,” “sound and fury,
When all too often Shakespeare is rushed, with wordy
speeches delivered as if the actor has a train to catch, Lloyd
allows the actors to savor these lines.
The bard’s shortest tragedy is played over three hours.
That’s a little too much for some of audience: for me, it was
absolutely worth it.
In the new-style Trafalgar Studio 1, there are now 70 seats
behind the stage. That’s distracting for many in the audience.
Most action is played forward. Those at the back are only feet
from the actors and sometimes right in the spotlight.
This is the first event in the “Trafalgar Transformed”
series and no doubt the theater will get the seating right soon.
This is nonetheless a fine start.
Feb 25 13 8:47 AM
James McAvoy Shines in Jamie Lloyd's Triumphant MacbethAlex AndreouIt would be fair to say that I am hypercritical of Shakespeare productions. Partly, this stems from my love for the plays; partly, from the fact that I have studied them, acted in them, directed and taught them and, so, I go into them with my own notions about how they should be done. How rare and wonderful then, to find myself watching a Macbeth at Trafalgar Studios directed by Jamie Lloyd, which made me want to stand up at every turn and cheer "Yes! Yes! This is it!"From the moment I walked into the auditorium to see it transformed by designer Soutra Gilmour into a grungy window looking out on a dystopian future or an alternate reality - it doesn't matter which - presented in the round, I had a feeling it might be special. But then again I've been to many brilliantly designed productions which fall within the first few lines of delivery.It is a familiar trap to treat a Shakespeare work as something much more than a great play and, in so doing, end up presenting something much less than a great play. No such mistakes from Jamie Lloyd. The line between being attentive to the verse, meter and beauty of language and delivering it so that it sounds like natural speech is an incredibly fine one. The brilliant ensemble found it with unerring accuracy. There was no pulling it about to the extent that music, rhythm and alliteration make it sound like a very long poem. There was also no attempt to reduce it to duller, modern prose.Here was a production which did not shy away from exploring the nature of violence - both in the act and its consequence. Like Hitchcock in his iconic farm scene in Torn Curtain, violent death was not easy, swift or poetic; it was filthy, grotesque and took an unbearably long time.It would be a cliché to say that James McAvoy inhabited the part; also inaccurate. It's much closer to the truth to say that he was possessed by it. Every beautifully rolled Scottish word, sounded like it had just occurred to him and issued forth that moment for the first time. His take on the character, as someone composed of equal measures of courage, doubt and a dark sense of humour at his own predicament, was innovative yet true. He is no Hollywood star, trying to prove something. He is a supremely talented, consummate professional who holds nothing back.
He was supported by a thoroughly excellent ensemble. Claire Foy's Lady M should have perhaps started from a position where internal fragility was kept more in check, encased in tougher metal, if only to give herself further to travel - but that's a mere trifle based on personal taste. By the latter stages she was heart-breaking. Honourable mentions must go to Jamie Ballard's Macduff, whose handling the news of his family's demise reduced me to a weeping mess, and Olivia Morgan as the Porter, who crafted a superb moment of truth and laughter in this glummest of environments.
Jamie Lloyd understood the play totally. If the Bard had an estate, they might - quite rightly - demand that nobody else is allowed to direct this work. His light and deft direction was evident throughout: From a simple hand-gesture during the first meeting of the couple which tells of their trouble in conceiving and the profound effect it has on their actions, to the prediction of Macbeth's downfall coming from Macbeth's own lips rather than the witches'. His touches were never intrusive or showy and always enhanced the story; they will be copied in many a lesser production for years to come.
This is a show which has the capacity to spark a life-long love affair between a Shakespeare novice and his work, while deepening and reaffirming the appreciation of an already converted lover of it. Which makes it an absolute triumph in my book.http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/alex-andreou/james-mcavoy-shines-in-macbeth_b_2758457.html?utm_hp_ref=uk
Feb 25 13 3:55 PM
Feb 25 13 4:14 PM
Feb 25 13 6:54 PM
Feb 26 13 5:04 PM
Went to see James McAvoy in #Macbeth tonight & passed Danny Boyle on the stairs during the interval. #scottishlovein
Feb 26 13 10:25 PM
Feb 27 13 10:45 AM
Designer Soutra Gilmour locks audiences onto two sides of her newly
built traverse stage with multiple entrances allowing for sudden
entrances and swift exits -- in part, a metaphor for the play. Her
war-torn, post-apocalyptic presentation sees the actors in grunge-style
combat-wear in a world topped off by broken-glass windows above
makeshift furniture in ramshackle military encampments. The immediacy of
it all makes audiences feel thrillingly -- and dangerously --
Adam Silverman's caustic lighting and Alex Baranowski's
soundscape of industrial-style growls and metallic stings ramp up the
sense of paranoia to such an extent that one of the many fears initially
conjured is that atmosphere will swamp the text. But Lloyd is canny.
His headlong, breathless opening -- with notably fierce, faceless
witches in gas masks -- delivers short, sharp shocks. Then, having
established such high stakes, he can adopt a slower pace in the
establishing scenes that follow, thereby allowing for rare clarity in
The knock-on effect is that in a play traditionally bound-up in
the tension between Macbeth and his wife, the surrounding characters
emerge more strongly, creating a much more fully woven texture.
As is often the case, Macduff comes close to stealing the second
act with Jamie Ballard beautifully calibrating his emotional response to
the news of the murder of his wife and children. But often
under-realized characters also shine here, notably Hugh Ross' wisely
benevolent Duncan. His calm generosity makes his murder much more
upsetting. That in turn ups the sense of difficulty and terror that
proceeds to engulf the Macbeths.
Lean and taut with purpose, Claire Foy's Lady Macbeth wastes no
time in deliberation, but she never descends into mere briskness.
Indeed, long-held stares between her and her husband across the width of
the stage convey an acute sense of loss between them -- a child,
maybe? -- and a ravening need for sexual or, at the very least,
That desire, and Macbeth's mounting inability either to fulfill
or to quench it, is a permanent undercurrent to McAvoy's performance. He
charts Macbeth's "growth" from a warrior elated by blood lust to a man
committing unspeakable acts who is self-aware enough to be grimly
determined. Quivering with rage or, for the brutal murder of Lady
Macduff and her son, icily stilled by viciousness, he powerfully conveys
a man increasingly desperate to stop himself heeding the thoughts and
fears threatening to overwhelm him.
Highly effective fight and movement direction by Kate Waters and
Ann Yee make the confrontations not just bloody and violent but as
difficult to watch as they should be. That's a risky approach but it
pays off by forcing audiences not just to recognize but to feel the
consequences of unspeakable actions.
The gore level is high and the impact throughout is visceral.
This plays well to a moviegoing younger generation which Lloyd's new
four-production season is aiming to encourage into the theater. But
nothing comes at the text's expense and the cumulative effect heightens
the drama. When a blood-drenched Macduff brandishes Macbeth's head, the
house is chilled with none of the attendant sounds of embarrassment that
usually accompany such huge gestures.
In his final scenes, McAvoy looks gaunt, hollowed out by
horrified self-understanding that makes him shake with silent laughter.
It's scary for being so unexpected a move. Its audacity matches a
production intent upon showing not its own imagination but
Contact David Benedict at
Feb 27 13 1:35 PM
Feb 27 13 3:41 PM
Feb 27 13 3:48 PM
Posted: 27/02/2013 09:08 GMT | Updated: 27/02/2013 10:05 GMT
Don't mention The Scottish Play.
The theatrical superstition to never utter Shakespeare's Macbeth inside a theatre has been cast aside by director Jamie Lloyd in a bleak dystopia starring James McAvoy (Atonement, X-Men: First Class) and Claire Foy (Going Postal, Ding Dong The Wicked) at Trafalgar Studios.
Following the original text, the famous tale of murderous ambition
has been transported to a future, in which our fears of global disaster
have all come to fruition. Grimy faces, sweat-stained clothes, unwashed
hair and flickering light bulbs, a dirty world where a fracturing
Scotland clings to tribal leaders in chaotic anarchy.
We are given a Macbeth that looks as though it has been
lifted from newspaper coverage of war-torn Syria; the Free Syrian Army,
wearing civilian clothing, waving guns against a backdrop of shattered
According to the production's Associate Director, Edward
Stambollouian, the walls of the rehearsal rooms were lined with photos
of rebel fighters in the Congo, scenes of civic unrest and derelict
Machete aloft and screaming, McAvoy makes his entrance, making a mock
swipe at a front row audience member. Macbeth: the adrenaline-charged
soldier, victorious in battle, a young warrior at the top of his game.
Rather than a murdering dictator, Shakespeare intended Macbeth to be a
man with a conscience, albeit a tortured one. With camaraderie, energy
and banter delivered in his own Scottish lilt, McAvoy shows the human
side of Macbeth: his struggle between ambition, moral apprehension and,
most likely, severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ignoring the reality of Macbeth's heinous crimes for a moment, McAvoy
is an inspiring and likeable leader, perhaps to a fault. But if we saw
nothing but evil in his performance, could we empathise with a character
They say behind every successful man is a woman, in Macbeth's case,
it is a scheming and murderous one. Foy shows the earnest ambition of
Lady Macbeth, without resorting to blunt aggression. An accomplished
performance, but one that would have benefited with more contrast
between beguiling manipulator and stricken wife, married to a man on the
edge of insanity.
Lloyd gives us a bloody Macbeth, literally. McAvoy and Foy show
their hands, arms and clothes stained with the blood of their victims.
As Banquo's ghost (Forbes Masson) torments Macbeth, we are taken one
step further; blood pours from the ceiling in a thick slew, splattering
the King's dinner guests, and some unfortunate audience members -
participatory theatre at its most raw.
The most disturbing violence in Lloyd's Macbeth is the
murder of Lady Macduff (Allison McKenzie) and her young son (Stuart
Campbell). We are spared nothing as the horrifying reality of war is
laid bare on stage.
Lloyd has pulled out all the stops to visually offer more than a simple
staging of Shakespeare's text, but are mud-stained trench coats and
gasmask-wearing witches enough to contribute to the legacy of the bard's
most bloody play?
It is easy to underestimate the power of props and costume. Every
opportunity is taken to transfix and transport us from 16th Century
Scotland to a new story - Lloyd tethers himself to the text in words
only, the rest is unique creation.
Feb 27 13 6:05 PM
Mar 2 13 12:03 AM
Mar 2 13 1:10 PM
IN the heart of London’s West End, Hollywood star James McAvoy is leading a Scottish cast in a daring production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Set in a future post-independence Scotland, the Bard’s tragic tale has been given an ambitious stylistic overhaul.
Director Jamie Lloyd delivers a pyrotechnic production where machine guns, boiler suits and distress flares update the story.
Paul English caught up with its stars Allison McKenzie and Kevin Guthrie to hear how they’ve helped Gary Lineker understand Shakespeare and why they hope Alex Salmond comes to see it.
Kevin Guthrie idolised James McAvoy when he was training to follow in his footsteps. Now the pair are knocking lumps out of each other in the name of entertainment.
And all because the young pretender got a call from his hero asking him if he fancied a job.
Kevin, from Neilston in Renfrewshire, had moved to London after graduation from RSAMD and starring as Peter Pan in National Theatre of Scotland’s production in 2010.
Chumming up with other actors in the Smoke soon led to him getting a slot on a thespian five-a-side team – with the man who inspired him to tread the boards.
Kevin, 24, explained: “I was trying to play it all dead cool when I met him, because he’s my hero and has been since I was a boy. I think he quite liked the fact that I was a young actor embarking on a new career.
“When Macbeth was being put together, he rang me up and asked if I was interested. It was so lovely to get a call from him.”Kevin plays Lennox, one of five Scottish noblemen, initially loyal to the despot before suspecting that he has blood on his hands.
After Macbeth, Kevin will be in cinemas in Dexter Fletcher’s movie adaptation of Proclaimers stage musical Sunshine on Leith, and has another role with model Agnes Deyn coming up.
He said: “I’m going to be filming Sunset Song (based on the classic Scots novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon) playing her husband later this year, with Peter Mullan. I’ve been really lucky since I left drama school and it all feels like it’s beginning to kick into gear.”
ALLISON first appears on stage in Macbeth in a boiler suit with a welding mask and orange flare. Some might consider this to be unusual garb for the play’s famous hags on the heath. Not Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, though.
Director Jamie Lloyd’s industrial take on the Bard’s tragedy has apparently helped demystify Macbeth for the former Spurs and Barcelona striker.
The smooth presenter was one of the first big names to feed back to Allison and her colleagues when he caught the show’s opening run last week.
And he had some special words for the blonde Glasgow actress (now that he has re-opened his Twitter account).
Allison said: “Gary Lineker tweeted his thanks to the cast for helping him understand Macbeth. He sent me a direct message too, which was lovely of him, saying I had ‘amazing energy’ on stage. Very sweet and lovely to hear.”Lineker isn’t alone in praising the production, with London’s theatre critics immediately warming to the gory savagery of the updated piece. But Allison and the cast are under strict instructions to avoid the reviews as far as possible.
The 36-year-old former River City actress said: “Our director Jamie gently advised us not to read the reviews.
“We’re in a strong position and believing anything that’s written or said can influence one person, and that can have a knock-on effect on the whole performance.”
Even now, after weeks of rehearsals and preview performances, Allison can barely disguise her delight at being part of such a high-profile production with Scotland’s Hollywood Golden Boy.
She said: “Jamie Lloyd is regarded as a wonderkid of theatre down here, and when I got the call to come and work with him I was amazed. When I found out James McAvoy was in it, that was the cherry on the cake.”
It’s not the first brush with The Scottish Play for Allison. She played manipulative Lady Macbeth in a smaller London production two years ago alongside Liam Brennan.
In this, playing the dual roles of Lady MacDuff and one of the three witches, it’s easy to see what Lineker saw in Allison’s commanding performance, especially in one prolonged, terrifying scene as Lady M.She said: “It’s hard to watch. It’s 14 and over only. In one scene in particular, I have to have a ‘safe’ word. We’ve had a hardcore fight co-ordinator. It’s really violent. People with a weak heart shouldn’t see it.”
Macbeth at Trafalgar Studios, a stone’s throw from the city’s famous square, has also thrown up a quirk of casting significant only to fans of a certain Scottish soap.
When Allison left River City in 2007, her character Jo Rossi was eventually replaced by Lisa Gardner. Now the pair are on stage together as two of the three hags on the heath.
She said: “The most bizarre thing is we’ve never met. We don’t really talk about it, but we have commented when we’ve been out for a beer about how mad it is.”
The actress lives in London with her boyfriend, actor Peter Barrett, but considers Glasgow her home. Does she feel a sense of heightened patriotism performing The Scottish Play in the heart of London with a principally Scottish cast?
“We’re just a good bunch of Scottish people working together. We’ve been out in London doing conga lines with James and everyone.
“He’s the most self-effacing actor you’ll ever meet and isn’t remotely starry.
“But I think we’d all get on as well as we do wherever we were.” http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/theatre/bold-reworking-shakespeares-macbeth-gets-1738329?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
Mar 2 13 8:38 PM
Kevin, 24, explained: “I was trying to play it all dead cool when I met him, because he’s my hero and has been since I was a boy. I think he quite liked the fact that I was a young actor embarking on a new career. “When Macbeth was being put together, he rang me up and asked if I was interested. It was so lovely to get a call from him.”
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