Chichester Festival Theatre at the Brooklyn Academy of Music through March 22.
I know some people don’t enjoy or approve of anachronistic productions of Shakespeare’s plays, and it’s true they can be gimmicky. But I can’t imagine that Shakespeare himself would have minded those directorial choices; after all, he included numerous clear anachronisms in his plays—note the chiming clocks, billiard games, and pistols of antiquity, for example—but more to the point, he unapologetically imposed the manners and behaviors of Elizabethan England onto a variety of other times and places. A Midsummer Night’s Dream isn’t really set in ancient Greece. The Winter’s Tale isn’t really set in Bohemia. And Macbeth isn’t really set in eleventh-century Scotland. So why cling to those settings? New settings can reinvigorate the plays, forcing us to reexamine them with new eyes.
This Chichester production of Macbeth is a good example of anachronism used well. Director Rupert Goold uses a relatively contemporary setting packed with Stalinist imagery, and that helps emphasize the idea that Macbeth isn’t just treacherous in rising to power but also in exercising that power. I admit I’d never really thought about that before, so wrapped up was I in all the intrigues and stratagems, but Goold makes it impossible to look at the story from such an amoral perspective. Macbeth is a tyrant, in every sense, and the creatively anachronistic production helps make that clear.