Hilton Als at The New Yorker:
W. H. Auden, in his very honest 1947 essay about “Macbeth,” said that it is “difficult to say anything particularly new or revealing about” the play. And I would agree, given the lengths that many directors go to to make the piece “new,” including building sets like Oram’s. At first, the spooky and delightful weird sisters—Shakespeare’s poetry always extended beautifully to the supernatural—feel like the “new” thing here, given their arresting choreography. But pretty soon that’s dropped, and we’re in the same old “Macbeth” territory of war and conquest and all those crimes against God eventually smiting the hubris of man.
Still, Richard Coyle’s depiction of MacDuff, the lord who commits regicide at the end of the play, is original; he finds substance and emotional conflict in a role that is generally passed over in favor of all those vengeful ghosts. So doing, Coyle brings an enlivening spirit to a piece that many directors, including Ashford and Branagh, try to claim as their own by layering it with ideas about culture, about history, about marriage, which have less to do with reality than with their failure to even approach what Shakespeare was able to achieve through his imagination: dramatic truth, the freedom of the born storyteller.