Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Unknown Soldier

Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma
Photo by Marc Brenner
The Shakespeare Theatre Company's astonishing production of Macbeth demonstrates how lucky the Washington area is to have Simon Godwin as the company's artistic director. Not only does this production feature internationally known actors Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma in the central roles, but the current run is probably its only one in the U.S., following earlier stagings in London, Edinburgh, and Liverpool.

Godwin has conceived each incarnation of this production to be performed in a unique industrial space rather than a traditional theater. The current run is in a former television studio in northeast Washington, far from downtown, and it offers staging effects that can almost be called cinematic.

The first thing audience members will experience is the overwhelming nature of the physical setting. After leaving the lobby area, they will encounter the first elements of Frankie Bradshaw's set design as they walk to their seats. Godwin plays up the immediacy of William Shakespeare's tragedy by setting it in a contemporary world at war, where the skeleton of a bombed-out car stands partly buried in rubble as fog belches outward. Jai Morjaria's lighting design includes frequent blasts of blinding light, while Christopher Shutt's sound design creates a world where warplanes carrying bombs can be heard overhead.

The witches (Lucy Mangan, Danielle Fiamanya, and Lola Shalam) could be any women trapped in a war zone, raggedly dressed in clothes that they might have scavenged from a battle site. Bradshaw also designed the costumes, from the battle armor and dress uniforms of Macbeth and his comrades to the sleek, unfussy outfits for Lady Macbeth. The action takes place on a bunker-like structure, built of concrete slab walls with a central frosted glass doorway, and some actors make their entrances by way of the theater aisles.

Fiennes' performance is thoughtful but never bloodless; his Macbeth is a realist who understands consequences but allows himself to be seduced by the witches' promises. As the drama proceeds and Macbeth realizes he must finish what he has started, Fiennes rages and mourns but always understands that he has brought this tragedy upon himself.

Interestingly, Varma plays Lady Macbeth not as a woman driven by ambition from the start but, like her husband, mentally infected by the witches' words. She seems to have been fine as a Thane's wife living in a castle–until she sees the possibility of so much more.

Other standouts are Steffan Rhodri as a pleasant, guileless Banquo; Ewan Black as a still youthful Malcolm forced to confront the meaning of fighting for his father's crown; and Ben Turner as a stalwart Macduff.

Macbeth runs through May 5, 2024, at The Shakespeare Theatre Company, 1301 W St. NE, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or visit

By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Emily Burns
Directed by Simon Godwin

Ross: Ben Allen
Malcolm: Ewan Black
Angus: Levi Brown
Seyton: Jonathan Case
Second Witch: Danielle Fiamanya
Macbeth: Ralph Fiennes
King Duncan/Siward: Keith Fleming
Second Murderer/Captain: Michael Hodgson
First Witch: Lucy Mangan
Macduff's Daughter: Kiyoko Merolli
First Murderer/Donalbain: Jake Neads
Lennox: Richard Pepper
Banquo: Steffan Rhodri
Menteith: Rose Riley
Lady Macduff/Doctor: Rebecca Scroggs
Third Witch: Lola Shalam
Macduff's Son: Maxwell Talbert
Fleance: Ethan Thomas
Macduff: Ben Turner
Lady Macbeth: Indira Varma
Macduff's Daughter: Adrianna Weir
Macduff's Daughter: Mila Weir