Macbeth review – Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre at Blenheim Palace

4 star review

This is pop-up Shakespeare on a grand scale.

In the grounds of Oxfordshire’s opulent Blenheim Palace, a replica Elizabethan theatre – inspired by London’s Rose Playhouse (1587) – has been constructed on the very route that Shakespeare is thought to have travelled from Stratford and London.

Macbeth is one of four plays being staged here over the summer (along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III and Romeo and Juliet).

Directed by Damian Cruden, this is an atmospheric production with lively battle sequences, brutal murders and scary supernatural scenes. The witches’ skull masks are particularly nightmarish.

In the title role, Alex Avery gives a wonderful insight into Macbeth’s conflicted soul. This scene in which he thinks he sees Banquo’s ghost at the feast – during which he directly addresses several members of the audience in the “groundling” area – is particularly well done.

Suzy Cooper gives one of the most powerful performances of Lady Macbeth I can recall. Her wailed “all the perfumes of Arabia” speech – with the sky darkening overhead – is a wonderfully intense moment.

There’s strong support from Mark Peachey as Banquo and Paul Hawkyard as Macduff. Paul Stonehouse deserves as special mention for his amusing turn as the Porter. Christopher Marin’s percussion-rich score is superb too.

It always feels special to see Shakespeare being brought to life on the type of stage on which it was originally performed. With its lashings of Game of Thrones-style gore, Blenheim’s Macbeth is a bloody good show.

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre at Blenheim Palace runs until 7 September

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