The Curse of Lady Macbeth

Posted in Audio by - November 25, 2021
The Curse of Lady Macbeth

Released November 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

As the TARDIS again travels to the past in Lizzie Hopley’s ‘The Curse of Lady Macbeth,’ the Ninth Doctor finds himself in the troubled Kingdom of Moray with its Queen Gruach who many believe to be the source of her people’s woes. With myths and legends abounding, however, she just may be their ultimate saviour.

Thanks to the pervasive prominence of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this is a world that is very intimately known through a certain filter with its characters’ thoughts, motivations, and actions the subjects of countless studies and opinions. However, that preeminent play is but one account of events, and Hopley wisely looks to the true history of the time to delve into a slightly different angle without forsaking any of what has known. The Doctor, of course, is more than comfortable walking within the shadows of superstitions and cultural myths even if he cannot remember the specifics of each of them, and the haunted and ghostly air that is so associated with this locale further heightens the very human drama on display as themes of love, innocence, purpose, and legacy versus legend all prominently come to focus.

Neve McIntosh gives a stunning performance as Lady Macbeth, creating a layered and nuanced character that hints at her far deeper sorrow as well as her dedication to help and do good for others. Along with Anthony Howell who likewise imbues an incredible power and gravitas to a Macbeth who is always suspicious and fixated on honour, these familiar characters are painted in a slightly different light that at least begins to hint at some of the more noble and heroic deeds they undertook. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough time for the story to truly delve into the inner workings of these two who clearly have so much more to offer, and as a result much of the internal conflict is delivered through the brilliant vocal performances rather than the actual plot and dialogue. While it’s understandable that the Doctor should be considered a blue man or storm kelpie given the locale and time, the overreliance on such a contrivance in so many scenes could have been allotted to more exploration of the Macbeths to give a far deeper and more meaningful performance to match the drama of what is clearly present that remains unsaid.

Unfortunately, the monster plot falls a bit flatter than the human component, and there isn’t enough done to really elevate any of this plot component above the traditional assumptions of bad intentions even when the lost warrior link and the power of innocence are revealed. The threat is purposefully kept as a secondary element to the Doctor’s interactions with the people, but it’s disappointing that this threat that is obviously so important to everyone here is not more fully explored and developed. This, as stated, is an issue with the Macbeths as well, and ‘The Curse of Lady Macbeth’ is a perfect example of a story that could have benefited from a second part or at least slightly reworked or expanded running time to fully allow the true potential of everything on display to become realized. Nonetheless, the atmosphere and sound design are mesmerizing and create a dynamic and living environment heavy with emotions, and Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor effortlessly steps into this well-trodden world to take charge where possible and to ensure that the wiser path is taken when two options present themselves. This is a man fueled by the power of the goodness within humanity, and there is certainly plenty here- even if much of it is left relatively unexplored- for him to latch onto in order to leave his trademark imprints of kindness and honour.

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