Alan Cumming’s One Man Macbeth – Critics Divided

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To portray any of Shakespeare’s characters is both a dream and a challenge for any actor. But to play every single character in Macbeth might represent a lot of actors’ nightmares, and would certainly be their biggest challenge. But it’s a challenge bravely attacked by Alan Cumming, who performs his one-man version of Macbeth to mixed reviews from the critics.

“In a truncated version of the play that clocks in at less than two hours,” writes The Associated Press for Yahoo, starting their review by calling the play ‘stunning’, “Cumming is both Macbeths, the three witches, Macduff, Duncan, Malcolm, Banquo and a half dozen others. Plus, he not only plays all the major Shakespeare roles, he also does the whole thing as a deranged mental patient.” He might have wanted to stop reading reviews there, though, as not everyone was equally impressed. “Mr. Cumming’s delivery of the major soliloquies is forthright and lucid but oddly weightless: the character’s descent into depravity has been sketched in brisk, light strokes that dissipate quickly, as if drawn in invisible ink. At times Macbeth — who speaks a full third of the lines in the original text — seems to be a supporting player in his own tragedy, and his death arrives with a bit of a whimper,” say The New York Times.

Alan CummingOne man show - Cumming is Macbeth (and everyone else)

Overall, the response leans over to the positive side. The Guardian give the effort a hefty 4 stars, saying, “It turns the play into a feverish exploration of mental illness, whether it's Cumming on TV monitors as the three hallucinatory witches, Cumming as Macbeth, desperately trying to process the horror of his own dark deeds, or Cumming as Lady Macbeth, dealing with the OCD torments of that damned spot.”


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