Macbeth, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Geoffrey Streatfeild is an intelligent actor who thinks through and constructs roles with deliberation. One might think Macbeth was not susceptible to such an approach: a man driven by ambitious appetite and then buffeted by the events he has set in train, he is much given to soliloquy but his reflections and uncertainties never threaten to affect the drama itself.

Streatfeild illustrates this well: right from Macbeth’s opening encounter with the witches, his soliloquies seem less to be Macbeth wrapped up in himself than expostulating for the benefit of the audience, yet he manages this without breaking the dramatic frame. But the crux of his approach is seen at the end of Act III, Scene 4, the final couple of minutes of the first half of Daniel Evans’ revival. In barely 20 lines, Macbeth transforms from the gibbering wreck just now menaced by the ghost of Banquo to the grimly determined villain who accepts and prosecutes his role with the portentous remark: “We are yet but young in deed.” Streatfeild shows us this rapid but decisive journey, and makes us understand why this is also the moment at which Lady Macbeth’s own horrified realisation takes her on the opposite switch from infernal schemer to sleepwalking madwoman. Claudie Blakley’s Lady M is consistently impassioned, but the need to escalate means that her final somnambulism scene hits operatic intensity.

Evans has turned the Crucible from its customary deep thrust into a full in-the-round space, the bloody thane’s goings-on observed from all sides as they play out on Richard Kent’s smoking stone circle of a set, reminiscent of one of Richard Long’s geographical sculptures. There are occasional questionable notes (such as the witches’ goddess, who appears so bedecked in twigs, leaves and fronds that she looks less like Hecate than Thicket), but these can usually be unknotted. David Ganly’s Banquo rumbles Macbeth almost from the first, conveyed with wordless looks; David Hounslow makes a rounded character of the usually perfunctory Lennox. And at the core, Streatfeild makes Macbeth human without sapping him with sympathy.

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