Macbeth (review). Anne Cox part of an unholy alliance

Banquo (Ian Grant), Duncan (Michael Mayne) and Macbeth (Steven Maddocks).

Banquo (Ian Grant), Duncan (Michael Mayne) and Macbeth (Steven Maddocks).

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The fight for power and control that dominates Shakespeare’s Macbeth is no different from that which goes on behind closed doors of most big businesses.

So setting the Bard’s Scottish play in the murky and seemingly corrupt world of big banking seems an ideal fit. Less so, I petulantly suggest, is director Nick Hastings deciding to make the three weird sisters, those hideous hags who foretell Macbeth’s destiny, into three red-top journalists.

Poor old hacks come in for stick in all walks of life. Our portrayal in drama pitches us somewhere well below pond life with the intelligence of amoeba (if Hugh Grant is to be believed) but making the hags into hacks was just plain nasty.

The latest outing for Macbeth is at The Cockpit Theatre, in London. The transition, away from the battle field and into a boardroom scrap between rival banks, isn’t entirely successful but it has its heart in the right place.

Julian Fellowes and Nick Hytner have both suggested that Shakespeare can occasionally be unintelligible and inaccessible to the general public. Certainly on press night a number of students watching the production looked glassy eyed and sleepy as the 150-minute production progressed.

Possibly supplanting The Bard with the machinations of The City is pushing comprehension too far. Who understands bankers? So it helped that a widescreen TV played news reports throughout following the progress of the fortunes of the Scottish Bank of Dunsinane as it fought to hold off a hostile takeover from Birnam.

There are accusations of insider trading, greed and dirty tricks and they don’t come any dirtier than those contrived by Macbeth and his lovely but ambitious executive wife, the Lady M.

Steven Maddocks makes a sound corporate thane, in reality the head of equities at Dunsinane Bank, but it is his wife, Danielle Stagg, as the scheming Lady Macbeth, who holds your attention. She revs up the venom as the performance progresses, moving from a subdued, and dutiful, bored housewife to a hell-cat, driven, possessed and demonic.

It’s a workman like production with some fine performances but the lives of corporate fat cats may still be a bit of a closed shop to theatre-going audiences.

Macbeth runs until October 26. For info/ tickets go to www.thecockpit.org.uk

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