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on 5 September 2005
A TV version of a stage production is normally a recipe for disaster: not so here, however. Ian MacKellen and Judi Dench (not yet Sir and Dame) are riveting as the husband and wife team from hell. McKellen's descent into indifferent, hubristic madness is chilling, and Judi Dench's screech in the sleepwalking scene is - quite simply - unbelievable: if this does not send shudders down your spine, nothing will.
Given the fact that this Macbeth was recorded in 1979, the picture quality leaves a bit to be desired, but any lover of Shakespeare or great acting would be insane not to buy this DVD.
Prepare to be blown away. (And by the way: where is television of this quality today?)
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on 6 May 2017
Great performances by the cast; wonderfully atmospheric and held the attention of my 16 year old grandson. Very good for GCSE revision.
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on 29 April 2017
as described
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on 23 March 2017
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on 29 May 2017
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on 11 January 2007
This is not just another Macbeth. Though faithful to the text and to the poetry of the text, this is used as a springboard to the production's own powerful exploration of what really drove Shakespeare - the issue of good and evil. Neither McKellen nor Dench have quite the right face for their characters (too strong and too warm respectively) but this is unimportant. Their unparalleled intensity of delivery glues the play together from beginning to end, however unpleasant to watch. But the most remarkable achievement is the way the so-called `minor' characters steadily coalesce into a unified force for good that by the end over-rides all else in our attention. The Act IV English scene is extraordinarily strong, `king's cure' and all. The need to produce for TV, usually a noose around the neck of Shakespeare, is mightily used here: no set to speak of, darkness everywhere against which a certain amount of white and occasional flashes of red or gold make their impact, a superb use of camera angles, and music that perfectly matches and supports the tone of the production. And as well as the modern dress there is a curiously modern style of delivery that makes this not Shakespeare's exploration of his theme but our own. Trevor Nunn and his team have out-Shakespeared Shakespeare.
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on 22 April 2006
I remember watching this RSC production of Macbeth on VHS while studying for my English GCSEs in 1996. Having read the book I was in awe of how Ian McKellen and Judy Dench had brought the play to life. It is now 2006 and I have just finished watching it again on DVD and am still equally impressed. It's an excellent performance that will live in your brain for a lifetime. (p.s. Ian McKellen also delivers a mean Iago in the RSC production of Othello now availiable on DVD).
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on 22 November 2007
I have never seen a "Macbeth" to touch this - on stage or screen.
This has the darkness, the danger and the madness that so often eludes those who try to bring this piece to life. McKellen and Dench are awe-inspiring, evidencing the intelligence that makes a great Shakespeare actor able to communicate the force and meaning of every word without either condescending or over-emphasising. A joy.
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VINE VOICEon 23 January 2016
This is the acclaimed Trevor Nunn 1976 stage production of Macbeth, videotaped for television. It is minimalist in terms of scenery, props and costume. There is a mostly black background and the costumes are era-independent. I think that worked well, serving to concentrate attention on the dialogue where in Shakespeare, it always belongs. It also served to divorce the action from everyday reality, thus reinforcing the supernatural elements of the plot.

The actors perform as if for a stage production, playing to the back row of a theatre rather than to a camera just in front of them. This sometimes makes it rather overwrought.

The scene where MacDuff receives news of his family's death is the scene that affected me most when I saw a different stage production but here, MacDuff, played by Bob Peck, receives the news as if he refuses to understand it, and it's played almost to comic effect. That absolutely did not work for me. There is no doubting Peck's acting ability. Indeed, according to Ian McKellen, Peck is the actor he "learned the most from". But I don't think he learned anything from this scene. I don't know if playing the scene that way was Peck's idea or the director's, but it is the low point of the production.

McKellen and Dench are superb. And it was good to see John Woodvine as Banquo. He was a familiar face on British television, usually playing a policeman, but rarely in a part that allowed him to shine, so this performance was something of a revelation.

Recommended, but be prepared for it being a recording of a stage production rather than a true television adaptation.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 April 2011
I watch this production of Macbeth every few years as it is simply the best I've seen, and I've seen quite a few. Before this version I wouldn't have thought Ian McKellan an obvious choice for Macbeth. However, he is utterly superb bringing Shakespeare's words to vivid life. The staging is austere, with clever use of light and darkness. Though largely bare of any props, the sheer strength of the play and the power of the acting all works beautifully. There are many familiar faces in the cast and as an ensemble they create a memorable experience.
Trevor Nunn, the director, has created a number of wonderful versions of Shakespeare plays, notably Othello (1990) [DVD] in which Ian McKellan is a marvelously sinister Iago and Imogen Stubbs (Nunn's wife) a heart-rending Desdemona.
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