Thursday, October 07, 2010

Macbeth on PBS

Watched the PBS' "Great Performances" Macbeth last night. Easy to see why it won awards.

PBS' version--that of Rupert Goold--is anachronistic; it made Macbeth (Stewart) into a successful 1940's military commander who murders his way into the Supreme Leader slot. That State just happened to use a lot of Russian music, and a lot of red accents in uniforms, and a lot of Russki-like uniforms and greatcoats, not to mention a lot of gulag-type cells and assassinations.

Curiously, the precis offered at the link above doesn't mention "Russia." Nor "Bolsheviks."

Goold (and Stewart) recognized that Shakespeare's theater-work was just as good as screenplay, allowing deft camera-use to do the work of concentrating on key players, or on close-ups of 'business' which would ordinarily be lost in a stage-production with its limitations on scenery, location, and audience-proximity.

But Stewart and Kate Fleetwood (Lady Macbeth) did not relax their performances because the technology allowed it. Nosirree, Bob. They were stunning. He played the downward moral spiral of Macbeth perfectly; and she first appeared chillingly ambitious, and progressively became the monster-woman who you do NOT want to meet on Hallowe'en.

Some things were jarring. I'm not sure that a rap-version of "Double, Double, Toil..." really worked well (except as a well-deserved comment on rap). Also, it was fitting, but NSFW (or family) that Lady Macbeth's costumes were progressively risque, paralleling her moral decay. In her last major scene, she was outfitted like Evita, but with much less bodice; a thought-provoking image.

The use, and selection, of music was excellent and served to bring out Stewart's subtle use of cantillation (he even outright 'sang' a few words here and there). Other background sounds were equally well-chosen and utilized: faint screeches and howls served to enhance the mood but never intruded.

Nothing we say can add to the deserved reputation of Shakespeare as a compelling observer/chronicler of humanity. But I do think that Goold's production shows it very well, indeed.

Worth catching on the re-run.


Dave said...

reprising his Star Wars role

You mean Star Trek, right?

Dad29 said...