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STC’s Modern Production of Macbeth Stars the Great British Actor Ralph Fiennes in a Triumphant Performance

STC’s Modern Production of Macbeth Stars the Great British Actor Ralph Fiennes in a Triumphant Performance

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Jordan Wright
April 16, 2024
Special to The Zebra

Indira Varma and Ralph Fiennes (Photo/ Marc Brenner)

From the opening roar of a fighter jet overhead to the ultimate rhythmic uttering of one of the Three Witches, “by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”, this production will be the one Macbeth you will remember above all others. I honestly felt as though I had neither heard, studied, nor seen it before – certainly never performed so brilliantly nor staged so creatively. We not only see Lady Macbeth (Indira Varma) as a woman who longs to equal a man’s powers, “…unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direct cruelty. Make thick my blood,” she entreats the spirits, but we see Macbeth (Ralph Fiennes) drenched in blood, going mad with the fear of divine retribution for his evil deeds as predicted by the Three Witches (Lucy ManganDanielle Flamanya and Lola Shalam).

Enough cannot be said about the two leads and the raw passion in these tour de force performances by Fiennes and Varma. Fiennes delivery, slowing down the pace when the lines and the mood need emphasis and heft, and drawing the audience deep into his sphere, are fiercely captivating. This slowing down of the pace allows the audience time to process and that is what separates this staging from many others. The actors’ well-honed delivery and Director Simon Godwin’s keen respect for the prose reflected here.

Lola Shalam, Lucy Mangan, and Danielle Fiamanya (Photo/ Marc Brenner)

Singers are told, “Don’t throw away a line. Give it meaning.” No line should be incidental and no action superfluous. Here everything is carefully drawn and purposeful. This is not the revved-up Shakespeare we have come to expect with lines delivered staccato. In this interpretation deeper meaning is imparted to each interaction and to every word. It is a glorious thing to behold. This is the same experience we have when watching a great movie where the viewer is afforded pauses in the action to better process the scene allowing for a more intimate and visceral experience.

Fiennes’ extraordinary ability to inhabit Macbeth is as complex and gripping as it is nuanced. The same can be said for Varma as the diabolical Lady Macbeth. The two are in total sync and it is absolutely delicious. Though we well know the plot, it’s still edge-of-your-seat action – from the sword fights to the grisly murders to the diabolical treachery, the grief and the ultimate revenge.

Ben Allen, Indira Varma, Rose Riley, Richard Pepper, Steffan Rhodri, and Levi Brown (Photo/ Marc Brenner)

Surprisingly, the production is not held in either of STC’s downtown theatres. It’s in a former BET-TV production facility in Northeast DC that lends itself to the magnitude and enormity of this unique event. Upon entry into the massive facility, you will pass through what appears to be a bombed-out street scene. A burned-out sedan rests on a pile of rubble, reflecting the emotional disasters to come. Fiennes insisted this Macbeth be in an industrial space on the outskirts of the city. The same requirement applied to its previous iterations in Liverpool, Edinburgh and London where it was mounted before coming to DC.

A triumph for Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Simon Godwin and this outstanding and predominantly British cast!

With Ben Allen as Ross; Ewan Black as Malcolm; Levi Brown as Angus; Jonathan Case as Seyton; Keith Fleming as King Duncan/Siward; Michael Hodgson as Second Murderer/Captain; Kiyoko Merolli as Macduff’s Daughter; Jake Neads as First Murderer/Donalbain; Richard Pepper as Lennox; Steffan Rhodri as Banquo; Rose Riley as Menteith; Rebecca Scruggs as Lady Macduff/Doctor; Maxwell Kwadjo Talbert as Macduff’s Son; Ethan Thomas as Fleance; Ben Turner as Macduff; Adrianna Weir as Macduff’s Daughter; and Mila Weir as Macduff’s Daughter.

Adapted by Emily Burns; Set and Costume Design by Frankie Bradshaw; Sound Design by Christopher Shutt; Lighting by Jai Morjaria; Composer Asaf Zohar; Fight Director Kate Waters.

Ben Turner (Photo/ Marc Brenner)

Through May 5th presented by the Shakespeare Theatre Company in association with Wessex Grove, Underbelly. At 1301 W Street, NE, Washington, DC. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 547-1122 or visit

If you are unable to secure tickets to this once-in-a-lifetime production, it will be in local movie theatres beginning May 2nd

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