Macbeth at Chichester Festival Theatre REVIEW: 'John Simm does not disappoint. His Macbeth is powerful and focussed'

Possibly the most anticipated show of the 2019 Chichester Festival, Macbeth is here and sadly, on the whole, is rather underwhelming.

Saturday, 28th September 2019, 10:03 am
Dervla Kirwan and John Simm in Macbeth at Chichester Festival Theatre. Picture by Manuel Harlan

John Simm – one of the country’s most popular actors – does not disappoint. His Macbeth is powerful and focussed and master of the throwaway put-down. His delivery is subtle and honest and, whilst honouring the iambic pentameter, is never forced. His delivery of the ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech is revelatory.

Likewise, the supreme Dervla Kirwan as Lady M, towers over the text. Her madness, as it dawns, is quiet, brooding; that most purple of passages as she tries to clean blood from her hands as she sleepwalks, is wonderful and her whimpers as she exits the scene almost – but not quite! – raise sympathy for this most unsympathetic of Shakespeare’s women.

Harry Peacock takes that most dreaded of parts – the Shakespearean comic-role, in this case, the Porter – and makes him laugh-out-loud funny. All power to him.

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But the textual delivery from the rest of the cast often feels like swimming upstream through treacle. Delivery is pedestrian, with every one of the Bard’s syllables being treated like a holy relic. There’s also far too much demonstration going on: I talk about heaven, I point to the sky; I talk about an attack, I point to the army; I refer to myself, I clasp my chest. Sometimes there are so many waving arms it’s like watching a stage full of helicopters.  

That said, it looks beautifully stark and cold and Simm and Kirwan are masterful.

Until October 26.