THIS production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, currently playing at the cavernous Royal Highland Centre (RHC) at Ingliston, has been eagerly anticipated. There has been excitement, of course, about the lead roles (of the titular regicidist and his complicit wife) being played by the celebrated actors Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma.

However, there have been high expectations, too, regarding director Simon Godwin’s staging of the play. The show’s co-producers promised that the Bard’s “Scottish play” would be “staged like never before in custom-built theatre spaces unique to this production.”

As it turns out, Scotland’s theatregoers would have been well advised to take the advice of Public Enemy’s classic 1988 rap track Don’t Believe The Hype. Unlike Romanian director Silviu Purcarete’s spectacular production of Goethe’s Faust (which played the RHC back in 2009), this Macbeth does not really require the venue’s considerable size.

Godwin has merely built a conventional, medium-sized auditorium in the middle of the huge hall. The openness of the RHC is only needed to accommodate designer Frankie Bradshaw’s theatrical ante-room. Here, our feet crunching on the concrete rubble of seemingly bomb-blasted buildings, we walk through a scene of devastation that includes a car that is actually ablaze. This design element – which points us very directly towards the production’s setting in the context of modern warfare – is a hyper-literal, bombastic gesture.

In truth, this design is superfluous. There is no good reason why this production couldn’t be staged in a regular theatre.

The National: MACBETH. The Depot. Photo Matt Humphrey (1).

All of which is a great pity as – the hyperbolical marketing of the show as event theatre notwithstanding – what we have here is a very respectable, quite straightforward rendering of the play. Working with Emily Burns’s slightly truncated adaptation (from which, for instance, the Porter is shorn), Fiennes and Varma are powerfully plausible as the Macbeths.

The erotic dimension in their malevolent desire for the crown (the aphrodisiac of power) is made wonderfully palpable. Fiennes plays the Banquo ghost scene with, by turns, outraged terror and a comically futile attempt to reassure his guests of his jocularity.

Both Fiennes and Varma impress in their capacity to reflect their characters’ complex and conflicting moods and emotions in gesture and movement. By the time Macbeth orders the murders of Banquo and Fleance, the unease of Varma’s Lady M is reflected in her recoiling awkwardly from her husband’s sexual advances.

If the lead actors provide a two-handed masterclass in deft, consequential expression and sarcastic humour, they are joined (on Bradshaw’s smart yet utilitarian, modern, palatial set) by a fine supporting cast. Acclaimed Scottish actor Keith Fleming is a swaggeringly magnanimous King Duncan, while the modern, urban witches (Danielle Fiamanya, Lucy Mangan and Lola Shalam) emphasise, not the sisters’ “weirdness”, but their connectedness to the audience.

Affecting in its violence (not least in the slaughter of Lady Macduff and her children), this is an often compelling staging. It’s just a pity that it is marred by the installation of its pointless ante-chamber and the associated marketing hype.

At Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston until January 27: