Last weekend, I had the pleasure of going to Glasgow to visit some lovely newly-migrated friends, and to see Alan Cumming in a one-man production of Macbeth. When we booked the tickets, I admit it was mainly from curiosity – I’ve long loved Alan Cumming, as far back as trashy early performances in Bernard & The Genie, or even further back , The High Life, co-written by Cumming himself (I defy you to get that theme tune out of your head). He was brilliant in the 90s revival of Cabaret, as a suitably sleazy Emcee, and made some surprise appearances in Bond and X-Men Movies. I understand he’s brilliant in The Good Wife too, but in general it looks like a really annoying programme, so I’ve never bothered with it…
In spite of all that, I completely underestimated him as an actor, so the idea of Cumming taking on a one-man Shakespeare seemed somewhat ridiculous. But no, it was increds. I’m no theatre reviewer, but I can say that it was an extraordinary thing to watch, and quite rightly deserved the standing ovation it got. Set in a mental asylum, Cumming plays a man mentally tortured by the actions and inactions of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, MacDuff et al, acted out with a series of voices and props to denote each character. In the bleak and deserted ward setting, the isolation of the one-person format neatly showed the many facets of a broken and confused man.
Although the run at the Tramshed in Glasgow has now finished (we were lucky to go on the final night), the production has now transferred to New York. If you can’t make it to New York, and want to feel really disturbed, you can now buy the audioplay on Amazon. But brilliant though the show is, I think listening to a madman doing a bunch of different voices in your ear is a sure-fire way to go mad yourself. So, maybe don’t buy it after all.
However, if you’re drawn to the multifarious Cumming, tune in to his new series Urban Secrets, on Sky Atlantic from tonight, which should be a great companion piece to the BBC’s utterly fascinating The Secret History Of Our Streets. If you haven’t seen this series, part of the BBC’s London strand, I recommend iPlayering it immediately.