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Macbeth (National Youth Theatre)

Our critics rating: 
Thursday, 09 October, 2014
Review by: 
Mark Shenton

The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, first established in 1956 and soon to celebrate its 60th anniversary, was the world's first youth theatre company and remains one of the largest. It has an astonishing track record in training the stars of tomorrow, with past alumni that include Helen Mirren, Daniel Day-Lewis, Derek Jacobi, Ben Kingsley and countless others.

Their initiative since 2012 to bring 15 of their actors into a Rep company to present a bold West End season of three plays in which they all appear gives theatregoers a brilliant opportunity to star-spot for the future.

If I found their new play Selfie a confusing muddle, their production of Macbeth is a model of clarity, brevity and strong classical acting. The director Ed Hughes applies a concept to it with intelligence and purpose, setting it on the eve of the First World War. Just as those events, precipitated by an assassination, led to a global war, so Macbeth begins with Macbeth's murder of King Duncan to take the throne of Scotland - and an inexorable tragedy unfolds culminating in civil war.

The production is staged with uncluttered urgency on a stage that's mostly bare except for surrounding grey curtains. Atmosphere and changes of location are swiftly provided by Adam Povey's lighting design.

Instead, the focus is entirely on the young actors here, who handle Shakespearean language with complete fluency and command, with superb performances from Jeremy Neumark Jones as Macbeth, Sophie Dyke as Lady Macbeth, Grace Chilton as Porter, and Dominic Grove as Duncan.


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