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Shakespeare’s plays rarely come to Broadway, and when they do, it tends to be in the form of star-driven productions imported from England. Of these, the one that has lodged itself most firmly in my memory is Rupert Goold’s blood-soaked 2007 Chichester Theatre Festival staging of “Macbeth,” which later played in London’s West End and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, transferring from there to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre for a universally acclaimed eight-week run. Granted, its box-office success was due in substantial part to the presence in the cast of a TV star, Patrick Stewart. On the other hand, Mr. Stewart is also a stage actor of distinction, and Mr. Goold’s high-concept modern-dress production, which transplanted the action from 11th-century Scotland to an unnamed Soviet-bloc state, served the play exceptionally well.
It stood to reason that the BBC would film Mr. Goold’s “Macbeth” at the end of its extended travels, not as a “capture” of a live stage performance but as a full-fledged made-for-TV movie shot on location at England’s Welbeck Abbey. The small-screen version was shown in the U.S. in 2010 as an episode of PBS’ “Great Performances,” and it is now available for free viewing on the network’s website through the end of the year. The results are enormously impressive—in certain ways more so than the original stage version, memorable though it was…
High-concept Shakespeare productions too often fail to illuminate the play’s text, but this staging, in which the Stalinesque Macbeth and his vulpine wife (Kate Fleetwood) kill their way to the top of the churning heap of totalitarian power, plugs into the play smoothly and coherently….
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The trailer for Macbeth: