Thursday, August 2, 2012

Audiobook Review: Macbeth, Performed by Alan Cumming

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Title: Macbeth
Author: William Shakespeare
Narrator: Alan Cumming
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Duration: ~2 hours
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Star of stage, film and television Alan Cumming delivers a virtuoso performance playing every role in the National Theatre of Scotland's bold presentation of Shakespeare's chilling tale of desire, ambition, and the supernatural. 
This radical reimagining of one of Shakespeare's most deeply psychological plays is set in a psychiatric unit in which Cumming is the lone patient. Channeling the story of Macbeth, he is inhabited in turn by each of the characters of the drama, including some of Shakespeare's most complex and troubled creations. 
Cumming's one-man interpretation of Shakespeare's Scottish play comes to audio directly from acclaimed limited stage engagements with the National Theatre of Scotland in Glasgow and at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. Directed for audio by the stage production's renowned directors, this exclusive studio recording of Cumming's dazzling solo performance captures the excitement, passion and poetry of a wildly original tour-de-force that is destined to become theatrical legend.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Macbeth is one of the greatest plays ever written, and it is my personal favorite of Shakespeare's works. This rendition is different in that it's the story of a man in a psychiatric unit who channels the story of Macbeth. This play is uniquely suited to this type of portrayal due to Macbeth's transformation and corruption. He only gets worse, which can be mirrored by a mentally insane person having an episode.

Alan Cumming does a brilliant job in narrating. While I don't think it comes close to what this portrayal must have been like on stage, he is still a great narrator. Unfortunately, there is nothing that suggests the context of a man in an insane asylum channeling Shakespeare's characters; either the listener has to imagine it for herself or simply take it as a reading of the play. Cumming does a good job in giving each character individuality, and the parts with the witches gave me the chills -- the editing is perfectly done so that his voice echoes three times to match the characters.

I do think that only those familiar with Macbeth can get much out of this. Any work of Shakespeare is hard to understand as an audiobook, especially with only one person narrating. Those unfamiliar with the story of Macbeth are likely to get confused. Likewise, any people out there who can't understand a Scottish accent may have trouble following along. But for those who are familiar with Macbeth and don't have a problem with understanding accents, you will love this.

*I received a free copy of this audiobook from the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox.*