Following a London West End run in December 2007, a sold-out limited engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in March 2008, and a subsequent eight-week run on Broadway, director Rupert Goold’s gripping stage production of Macbeth was filmed for television at the end of 2009.
The co-production between WNET.ORG and Illuminations Television, in association with the BBC, stars Sir Patrick Stewart in his triumphant, Tony-nominated performance as the ambitious general, and Tony-nominated Kate Fleetwood as his coldly scheming wife.
The production, though retaining the Goold’s exciting concept of relocating the bloody action to a nameless 20th-century militaristic society, has been rethought in vivid filmic terms. The movie, marking Goold’s cinematic debut, will be presented on PBS as part of the Great Performances series Wednesday, October 6, at 9 p.m. (check local listings).
Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers. Originating at England’s innovative Chichester Festival Theatre, the play – the Bard’s shortest tragedy — is taken out of its Scottish context to offer an allegory of war and the quest for power in the modern world. Writing for the Hollywood Reporter after its London opening, Ray Bennett enthused, “Seldom can Shakespeare’s murky Scottish tragedy ‘Macbeth’ have been staged with so much clarity and emotional punch as in Rupert Goold’s exhilarating production.”
When the production opened stateside at BAM, Ben Brantley of The New York Times praised Stewart’s “fearsome insight and theatrical fire.”
Elysa Gardner in USA Today observed Stewart’s “witty, nuanced work, which reveals Macbeth as an intelligent, rational person driven to madness by outside forces and his own violent transgressions. There is something of Lear — and Hamlet, too — in this portrait of a thoughtful, corruptible man.”
This is not your grandfather’s “Macbeth.” Shot in High-Definition at Welbeck Abbey in the U.K., Goold maintains the atmosphere and tone of the stage version, heightening the Shakespearean classic with an edgy style reminiscent of Illuminations’ recent film adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet, which was also broadcast on PBS in April 2010 by THIRTEEN’s Great Performances. Among the actors recreating their roles for the film are Michael Feast (Macduff); Martin Turner (Banquo); Scott Handy (Malcolm); Paul Shelley (Duncan); Suzanne Burden (Lady Macduff); and Christopher Patrick Nolan (The Porter).
In support of the presentation, WNET.ORG is offering a Teachers’ Guide for educators to utilize the PBS broadcast in classrooms around the country. Hosted on www.pbs.org/gperf, the activity-based analysis of the play is illustrated by various lesson plans and activities. After the October 6 PBS broadcast premiere, the complete film will be available for viewing online at pbs.org/gperf and video.pbs.org.
Macbeth was produced by John Wyver and Sebastian Grant, with Mark Bell as executive producer for the BBC; for Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer, and David Horn is executive producer.
Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, Vivian Milstein, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers and PBS.