Australian Studies, Volume 4, Series 2 (2012)

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Dunsinane, Mount Macedon: Geoffrey Wright's Melbourne 'Macbeth' (2006)

Rosemary Gaby


In recent decades Australian theatre has produced many well-received performances of Shakespeare using Australian settings and accents, so when Geoffrey Wright’s 2006 Australian-gangland adaptation of Macbeth was first publicised hopes were high that a significant Australian Shakespeare feature-film might finally have arrived. In the event, while the film did win AFI awards for production and costume design, it did not achieve anything near the kind of critical or box-office success that attended Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet or even Wright’s own 1992 Romper Stomper. Like Romper Stomper, Wright’s Macbeth was inspired by Melbourne’s underworld, anticipating the popular Underbelly TV mini-series that fictionalised the 1995-2004 Melbourne gangland wars and was first screened in 2008. While the experience of Wright’s film as a whole might resemble – both literally and metaphorically – Coleridge’s famous summation of Edmund Kean’s acting as like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning, its location provides occasion for some inspired filmic responses to the dominant image patterns of Macbeth. This paper considers the evocation of locale in Wright’s film and some of the ways its physical and social setting reimagines the play’s key motifs in contemporary Australian terms.

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