BBC Radio 4
Remarkably, in the two years since the pandemic struck, BTG has reviewed a dozen productions of Macbeth with one more online from New York’s Red Bull Theatre in the offing. Beyond that, arguably the glitziest of all, starring Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga, is about to open on Broadway.
This might be coincidence, or it is possible that producers have come to the view that audiences will recognise parallels between our current benighted existence and tragic events in Scotland all those years ago.
The latest incarnation broadcast in two parts of just under an hour each by BBC Radio 4 matches New York’s casting of James Bond with a former Doctor Who, David Tennant, cast in the title role opposite Daniela Nardini.
Unlike so many of its recent competitors, there is an added degree of authenticity to this production of The Scottish Play, in that the casting features the cream of actors from north of the border utilising their native accents to the full.
Given the prolixity of recent productions, prospective listeners will probably be wondering what a radio version produced and directed by Clive Brill has to offer. The main attractions are a rich appreciation and use of Shakespeare’s poetic language and Joe Bedell-Brill’s sometimes intrusive but also evocative soundscape.
Daniela Nardini seems perfectly suited to an audio production, her character’s voice and attitudes chilling the heart throughout, while David Tennant expertly balances Macbeth’s bravado and fears, as convincing in a mad panic as delivering a calm soliloquy.
They receive solid support from Stuart McQuarrie, whose Banquo may not survive long but, as the three witches predict, leaves behind a long historical legacy and Alec Newman’s pained Macduff.
In addition to the leading quartet, there are fine cameos from Ron Donachie playing Duncan and Forbes Masson who is a particularly witty, drunken Porter, while a popular veteran with a most distinctive voice, Richard Wilson, takes the role of the Doctor.
This thoroughly Scottish version of The Scottish Play is an enjoyable opportunity to steep oneself in the language as it was meant to be spoken, while enjoying a classic tragedy in an uncommon medium.
It is available via BBC Sounds until 21 May.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher