With Hollywood action man Jai Courtney in the title role and former artistic director Simon Phillips at the helm, there were high expectations for the Melbourne Theatre Company’s first Shakespeare in five years. Although there’s cinematic impact at times, this Macbeth lacks the depth many would probably hope for, even expect.

What is already among Shakespeare’s most compact plays is significantly cut, and the consequent sense of skating across its surface is compounded by Courtney’s performance. While he is persuasive as the angry tyrant, with an intimidating presence reminiscent of Tom Hardy, Macbeth the tortured soul is unconvincing because Courtney tends to deliver his lines rather than revel their poetry.

Geraldine Hakewill as Lady Macbeth in Melbourne Theatre Company's Macbeth Geraldine Hakewill as Lady Macbeth. Photos © Jeff Busby

The cast’s success tends to be reflected in their level of live-theatre experience, with the measured composure of veterans Jane Montgomery Griffiths and Robert Menzies underutilised in several minor roles. As Lady Macbeth, Geraldine Hakewill does icy resolve and inner turmoil nicely, Dan Spielman admirably contains Macduff’s anguish, while relative newcomer Kevin Hofbauer plays Banquo with easy grace.