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Macbeth in Stride at Shakespeare Theatre Company

A third of the way through the production it dawned on me: Shakespeare Theatre Company was the wrong venue for this production, and was much to blame for my critical response.

Macbeth is the first Shakespeare play I ever read, and remains a nostalgic favorite for that reason. And so when I saw that STC is producing two versions in a season I was determined to see both - and nearly missed my chance to see the nearly-sold-out Macbeth in Stride.

It promised to be a reclamation of Lady Macbeth, but it's clear that STC wasn't quite sure what to do with it. The copy it used for promotion did not accurately reflect the tone of the play, and the fact that Simon Godwin spends half of his directorial address talking about the new seats in the theatre shows that they didn't give it as much thought and care as they should.

The show is not so much a reclamation as a complaint; it offers no real solutions to the gendered and racial problems on which it's focused, but gives clear voices to those problems. That in itself is no failure: the audience should think of the solutions themselves. And the musical composition and production was stellar, both engaging and skillfully performed. But there were amature elements that detracted from the production, given its staging. The dancing and choreography were clumsy, some staging seemed to need more rehearsal, and the actor playing Macbeth was terrible. These "flaws" struck hard in a theatre with a reputation for big names and strongly-polished productions, like last season's King Lear and The Jungle.

Ultimately, it was too small of a production for STC, and its failure to live up to the standards and style of the theatre contributed to the critical response towards a production I would have loved at another theatre - like Studio Theatre, where I saw the next Shakespearean adaptation.

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