Macbeth (an undoing)

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Five stars

“Things fare better when played and played again,” says Liz Kettle’s Zelig-like mistress of ceremonies Carlin at the opening of Zinnie Harris’ ferocious feminist reimagining of Shakespeare’s Scottish play. This speedy homecoming of Harris’ own production following its 2023 Lyceum premiere follows runs in London and New York, where it picked up four Drama Desk nominations.

All of which makes Nicole Cooper’s Lady M even more of a conquering heroine as she transcends her role as the power behind the throne to become part of a weird sisterhood that may or may not have exploded out of her head.

Things begin on familiar enough terrain once Carlin slips inside the action on Tom Piper’s expansive set, as Adam Best’s Macbeth and James Robinson’s Banquo are led astray by the Sisters, here for once given the dignity of names.

This eases into a last gasp jazz age party scene as the plot to kill Duncan is set in motion inbetween dealing with Star Penders’ bratty Malcolm and the subsequent fallout of the killing.


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The second half of Harris’ construction takes an audacious lurch into the meta, with Lady M taking charge after her husband falls apart, while scratches, scrapes and bumps in the night punctuate Pippa Murphy’s eerie sound design throughout.

As Cooper’s Lady M calls for new dresses to hide the blood on her hands and everywhere else besides, in men’s eyes, at least, she too becomes a suitable case for treatment. She can only rewrite her own script for so long, it seems, before she loses the plot.

As the inevitable end beckons, Harris’ creation nevertheless remains a mighty meditation on female power.