Utterly fabulous, excellent performance at the Tramway by Alan Cumming as Macbeth last night – where the actor famously played all the leading roles. I was there with a 20 year old who didn't know Macbeth --- she found it totally compelling too. Clever, simple devices helped signal each change of character – and their untimely demise -- like slipping a towel up or down during Macbeth's exchange with Lady Macbeth or clutching a red apple drawn from a dressing gown pocket as Macbeth talked with Banquo. Cumming's Lady Macbeth had more full throttled sexual energy than any I've seen and I'm not sure any other actor could have taken the character to the raunchy excess of a nude depiction in a bath tub without titters. There were none – though Cumming's very pucker, Duncan raised some genuine laughs – especially in light of the actor's recent pronouncements on Scottish independence.
The conceit of telling the story in a psychiatric ward was the other actor and worked brilliantly – the set was a versatile but empty white tiled psychiatric ward with a high large observation window allowing the two other cast members – a doctor and a nurse – to observe the patient through all his wildly played out fantasies. The lighting was fabulous –suggesting a clutch of personalities walking together every time Cumming approached the shiny tiled wall. And the use of fallback TV screens above the set was brilliant, allowing the three witches to appear in a different physical place to the stationary Cumming as he played Macbeth simply throwing back his head to be picked up by at different angles by three overhead cameras. The final lines as the psychiatric staff retreat are chilling – a throwback to the fact some delusions (like the "Scottish play" itself ) are set to be played out over and over again.
The show ended with four encores and an immediate standing ovation. Well deserved. Another triumph for NTS, another unforgettable for the TRamway and a personal triumph for the actor who became seven complex Shakespearean characters for the night – Alan Cumming.