This traditional-looking, liberty-taking version of Macbeth has some fine features and ends with vigour, in spite of a rather flat first half.

Refreshingly, director Tom Mallaburn dares to add text to the script: knock-knock jokes are nicely delivered by Greg Johnson and a novel coda opens up sinister sequel possibilities. The climactic fight between Macbeth and Macduff is a great interpretation.

Our destiny, it seems, is mostly in our minds.

Less happily, a new heavy-handed prologue suggests a family tragedy causes Lady Macbeth's violent urges (an example of the "stuffed into the fridge" trope) while an introduced confusion has Ross, shown to care for the Macduff family, assisting in their murders.


Paul McLaney's soundscape, bagpipes and all, is wonderfully atmospheric. Although the witches' black tulle rags and dirty hissing faces are rather pantomime, their beautiful disharmonies are an eerie standout (I would buy the album).

Chantelle Gerrard's medieval costuming is admirably detailed and satisfying. Rich brocaded velvet and cherry-and pumpkin-coloured leather armour stand out among duller tones: it's like earth and midnight sky punctuated with silver stars. Flashy white-gold satin coronation robes neatly show up the Macbeths as parvenus.

Head-shaven and bearded, Stephen Lovatt is a good, swaggering Macbeth and Amanda Billing does well as his rather domesticated Lady: at one point, they create a deliciously awkward mad killers tea party. Matu Ngaropo, Amelia Reynolds and Julia Guthrey shine brightly in their small parts as Macduff and his family, helping the "action movie" second half perk up.

But most of the acting is merely competent. The number of overseas actors the Pop-Up Globe imports is controversial; judging by Macbeth, the internationals are not filling any local skills gap.

We see some symbolism (Lady Macbeth washes battle blood off her husband's face) but the show favours verisimilitude over stylisation. Lacks a wee pinch of salt.

What: Macbeth
Where & when: Pop-up Globe, Ellerslie Racecourse; until March 30
Reviewer: Janet McAllister