Watching a filmed stage productions is usually pretty boring (musicals being a pretty consistent exception). Rarely do the performances transcend the screen without the aid of editing, music, sets, anything cinematic. I might as well just listen to an audio recording; and in the case of Shakespeare, listening to a recording is almost just as good since settings and actions are usually vocalized anyway.

I braved such an adaption of Macbeth because I had never seen it and I wanted to watch it online. The 1983 version part of a "Tragedies of Shakespeare" series is okay in the sense that it gave me a good idea of the story (with the aid of sparknotes) and I got to hear all the oft repeated lines that are used so often for other things ("sound and fury"--cochlear implants? "Double, double, toil and trouble"--isn't that an Olsen twins movie? "the weird sisters"--magical Billy Idolesque rock?). Anyway, the Scottish play is pretty creepy, in a power-hungry-ill-gotten-gains-mystical sort of way, and I'm sure if I'd watched a more cinematic version I would have enjoyed it more.

But I loved the ShakespeaRe-told version because it visualized a lot of what Shakespeare revealed with long speeches. In other words, it was a more accessible version for film. And instead of the position as king being the incentive for murder, it's the chance to be the top chef at a 3 star restaurant. James MacAvoy plays Joe Macbeth, a chef whose hard work is overshadowed by his employer Duncan Docherty (who he only refers to as the Scottish Chef, haha). One night, Joe and his fellow chefriend Billy Banquo (Joseph Millson) encounter a trio of garbage men who predict Joe's success as head of the restaurant, but also Billy's son's eventual inheritance of it all.

After Joe recalls the experience to his wife Ella (Keeley Hawes), she ends up convincing Joe that the only way that he'll gain his success is by murdering Duncan (obvs) by using his practiced killing skills as a chef with a knife. Things spiral out of control from there.

But what really pulled things off (besides the presence of James MacAvoy and Richard Armitage(!) as Macduff) was the creepy visuals. Joe starts seeing blood everywhere, most disturbingly the water of his wife's shower. And his wife's guilt is shown in how she repeatedly washes her hands and the steadiness (or lack thereof) of her hand as she applies make-up. Somehow this all worked together. I was impressed by how dark a made for TV movie could be. I also thinks this is a great introduction to the story for anyone unfamiliar, although being able to catch some of the references makes it fun to watch even for those who know the play well.

You can find it on YouTube or Netflix instant play.


  1. I too loved this version of "Macbeth". It kept all the major themes of Shakespeare's version but told its own story which was creepy and darkly funny.
    MacAvoy and Hawes were excellent in this...they need to work together more often. Armitage and Milson provide additional eye candy if you like.

  2. So, this pic is a sort of subtle f-you to Penelope, no? Thanks for nothing Christina Ricci?

  3. This was made, or at least released, before Penelope, so I don't think it was an intentional insult. Also, Macbeth the play seems to mention swine a lot.