Gritty and terrifying, ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ is a fantastic stage debut for Saoirse Ronan ★★★★★

By Anna Berkowitz

Macbeth is just about one of the most famous and iconic stage plays, yet director Yael Farber delivers a meticulous and fresh take on the centuries-old story that leaves you with a truly chilling feeling. Unsurprisingly, four-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan shines as Lady Macbeth in the Almeida Theatre’s new version of the Scottish play. Opposite her is James McArdle, perfectly cast as Macbeth, executing some of the most terrifying scenes I have ever seen on stage.

The choice to make the two leads significantly younger than traditionally portrayed makes their descent into madness all the more jarring, as you see a vibrant, young couple in a truly loving relationship slowly brought down by their own ambition. However, what makes Farber’s version genuinely stand out is the mix of psychological horror and physicality that she emphasises. The explicit violence and fight scenes are raw, vicious, and lengthy, which gives the play a near constant feeling of tension and horror. Perhaps due to Ronan’s acting prowess and celebrity status, with a few key changes to the script, she gets significantly more stage time than previous iterations would allow and her mental deterioration is brought to the forefront. In one notable addition, she is present as Lady Macduff and her children are brutally slaughtered in a nearly three-minute sequence that is objectively terrifying, which caused more than a few gasps from the audience. 

Farber chooses relatively simple staging and costumes, all set in what can only be described as a quasi-modern police state. The overall aesthetics are quite gripping, complete with water and fire effects escalating towards the end. Ultimately, Farber highlights the experiences of the children involved, particularly Fleance, choosing to stress the cyclical nature of violence and the effects it has on the next generation.

Hi, I’m Anna Berkowitz. I’m from Berkeley, California, and I’m a General Course student, in my third year, studying International Relations and Literature. In the limited time that I have outside of the wonderful world of academia, I enjoy running, reading, playing flute, and spending all my money on cinema tickets and books. I love writing about new films, and tv, especially anything in the science fiction or fantasy genre. If you’d like to get in touch about anything at all, my email is, and my Instagram is @anna.berkowitz

Anna Berkowitz


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