1976 Royal Shakespeare Company

Interpretation 

The RSC have performed numerous productions of Macbeth over the years however Trevor Nunn’s 1976 production stands out for the dream pairing of Ian McKellen and Judi Dench as the Macbeth’s. It was first performed in The Other Place a black box theatre near to the RSC’s theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The secrets to this production’s success were the intimate setting and the simplicity of the staging which really highlighted the psychological dynamics of the characters. The production played 2 hours and 15 minutes straight through without an interval. It was so well received it transferred to the Donmar Warehouse and then to the larger space of The Young Vic. A television version was even made.

Set

The set was kept minimal. A bare wooden floor with a circle drawn on it and a circular pool of light. This was reminiscent of a magic circle and complemented the supernatural elements within the play. The rest of the space was kept very dark as were the costumes so the actors appeared to emerge from the darkness.

Language

Shakespeare’s text was used although it was probably slightly abridged because of the shorter running time.

Themes

This production highlighted the opposites within the play for example Christian vs Pagan, Man vs Woman, Reality vs Illusion etc. The production was considered by many to be terrifying.

Cast and Creative list

Cast

Macbeth Ian McKellen
Lady Macbeth Judi Dench
Macduff Bob Peck
Banquo John Woodvine
Malcolm Roger Rees
Duncan Griffith Jones
1st Witch Marie Kean
2nd Witch/Gentlewoman Judith Harte
3rd Witch/Lady Macduff Susan Dury
Donalbain/Seyton Greg Hicks
Sergeant/1st Murderer/Doctor David Howey
Ross/Porter Ian McDairmid
Lennox John Bowen
Angus Duncan Preston
Fleance/Messenger Zak Taylor
Young Macduff Stephen Warner

Creative

Director Trevor Nunn
Designer John Napier
Lighting Leo Leibovici
Music Guy Woolfenden

the-guardian-110x80  star-rating-5.0

Michael Billington “Trevor Nunn’s intimate revival in The Other Place took the curse off this notoriously difficult play. Ian McKellen’s Macbeth showed murderous ambition bursting through the soldierly mask like a clown through a paper hoop; and Judi Dench’s Lady Macbeth was no painted Gorgon but a startled novice dabbling in satanic powers. A great production that reclaimed the play for the modern age.”

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