Probably the closest way to experience watching an actual Shakespeare play back in Elizabethan England – if you do not happen to own a time machine – is seeing it performed at today’s modern Globe Theatre. Now, thanks to Uránia Filmszínház you can do exactly that in Budapest from the comfort of your movie seat.
For a couple of years now, Uránia has been screening performances of various famous theatres and operas from around the world. The National Theatre in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, or the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg are just a few names to mention. One of their longest running and most popular projects is Globe On Screen, the showing of Globe Theatre performances of William Shakespeare’s famous plays, screening one play every month. The play of October was Macbeth, the one the writer of this review had the opportunity to watch.
The play was part of the 2013-14 season at Globe Theatre, and a part of the 2014 Globe On Screen project. It was directed by Eve Best and the score composed by Olly Fox. The designer Mike Britton did a wonderful job with the sets and costumes, everything stays completely true to the period. You definitely won’t see anyone here using a gun or any other anachronistic objects, as in several other adaptations. The whole performance seems really close to what a play performed in Globe at its height must have looked like, except for the inclusion of women and persons of colour in roles, because excluding them would have been really inappropriate today.
The title role is played by Joseph Millson. He starts out a bit bland at first, but when the richer material for Macbeth comes up later on, he quickly grows out to be very likeable, dare I say the most engaging Macbeth I have seen so far. He has the perfect physical build for the role as well, he is tall, strong, and looks exactly how a king should look like. Comparing him to Gawn Grainger’s grey, dull, and withered King Duncan, you can just see why he would consider himself better suited for his position. He does the dramatic just as well as the funny, he has excellent comic timing and shines during the dinner scene. But most importantly, he gives the best delivery of the personal favourite ’Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow’ monologue I have even seen at the climax of the play, with just the right amount of vulnerability and helplessness.
The play shares most Shakespeare scholars’ view regarding Lady Macbeth’s age, her being the older one in the marriage. Played by actress Samantha Spiro, she easily looks 10 years older than Macbeth, and instantly comes off as the dominant one in the relationship. In fact, with her constant yelling and nagging of Macbeth in that disturbingly shrill voice of hers, she seems almost like a mother figure to him. Still, the viewer completely buys their connection and love for each other.
Philip Cumbus’ Malcolm was the surprise of the play for me. A character usually bland, dull, and gray in most adaptations, here he was funny, charismatic, and entirely likeable. Cumbus owned the role with loveable awkwardness and a perfect comic timing. Other honourable mentions include Banquo, played by Billy Boyd, the actor most familiar to audiences as Pippin from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Stuart Bowman’s MacDuff.
The witches of this version are not ancient and ugly, but young and pretty, however they retain their eerie otherworldliness, and at the end of the day, that is what the witches of the play are mostly about. There is also an example of doubled roles in the play, the character of Donalbain and MacDuff’s son are both played by the same actor Colin Ryan, which highlights how the innocents of the conflict suffer and get punished simply for being related to the wrong people.
The play was in English, with Hungarian subtitles. However, the translation was not the traditional Szabó Lőrincz one that is generally used, it was a completely new translation. In fact, a woman took the liberty of interrupting the play right at the very beginning in order to announce this and praise the new translation work – much to the dismay of the audience. Despite this, I was not entirely satisfied with it. The so-called new ’more modern’ translation was hardly groundbreaking, some expressions felt totally out-of-place, and the text wasn’t even properly synchronised with the sound and pictures. After a while, I just did my best not to pay attention to the subtitles at all, and would advise the same to others as well.
Seeing as the audience consisted of only a bunch of pensioners and a few humanities students, it looks like not many people are yet aware of this great opportunity. The plays of Globe at Uránia are a must see, quality entertainment. I would especially recommend it to students of English looking for a fun way to study for their literature exams.
by Enikő Fila
2014/11/28: The Tempest
2014/12/27: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
2015/01/23: IV. Henry Part I
2015/02/20: IV. Henry Part II
2015/03/27: The Merry Wives of Windsor
Uránia Nemzeti Filmszínház
Rákóczi út 21.
(1) 486 3400
Ticket for 1 play: 3600 Ft
When purchasing tickets for 3 or more plays: 3000 Ft/play
Book your tickets on the phone (486-3400, 486-3413) or online (http://www.urania-nf.hu/)