Last night marked the directorial debut of the Olivier Award-winning actress Eve Best, who chose to show off her off-stage talents on a stage she has appeared on many times with the very production she made her debut there with.
In a recent interview Best said she had wanted to make her directorial debut at Shakespeare’s Globe with something light and joy-filled, instead she found herself tackling the brutal and magical beast that is Macbeth. The multi-talented artist has, however, somehow managed to draw humour from even the darkest moments of the famous tragedy in a production that is unexpectedly comic, while still managing to pack a deadly, manic punch.
In many of its aspects Best’s production favours the Globe’s traditional roots, with the actors in Jacobean dress, and props and gore often left to the imagination. But using her expert and first-hand knowledge of delivering the text, Best’s direction sees the accomplished company unafraid to find comic phrasing or atmospheric pauses in every scene, creating often very untraditional results.
Joseph Millson’s Macbeth is as ruthless as they come, transformed from a nervous, incompetent wreck to an egomaniacal tyrant in one swift deadly swipe of a dagger. But, when faced with the ghost of Banquo, horror makes way for comedy as his psychotic demeanour turns mere fool and he peaks under tablecloths and jumps on tables with fear.
For all the unexpected lightness, however, brutality still reigns in Best’s take on the Scottish play. Samantha Spiro and Millson excel as the power-hungry couple, with a physical performance that sees kisses turn to punches in the heat of a second. Spiro’s small frame makes her demise into madness all the more powerful as she becomes a vulnerable, battered wife and guilt-ridden mess, performing her famous soliloquy with frantic, wide-eyed despair.
Support for the leading pair comes from an engaging Billy Boyd, whose bromance with Macbeth makes his death all the more upsetting, while Bette Bourne pleases audiences as the clown-like Porter. Cat Simmons, Jess Murphy and Moyo Akandé are a fittingly sinister trio of witches who strip to their underclothes, stain their lips with blood and smoke roll-ups. But it is Philip Cumbus who proves the production’s scene stealer, demonstrating the old adage that still waters do run deep with a quietly powerful performance as the even-tempered Malcolm.
With proceedings opened by the rallying and menacing sound of banging drums and stomping feet, the evening is concluded in complete contrast, with a sad violin solo and ghostly dance, but at no point in-between does the company’s energy relent in Best’s debut at the helm.